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5.0 out of 5 stars "A magnificent homage to humanity, art, culture and history...", 31 May 2012
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This review is from: Russian Ark [2003] [DVD] (DVD)
Russian screenwriter and director Alexandr Sokurov`s eleventh feature film which he co-wrote with Anatoly Nikiforov, Russian screenwriter and director Svetlana Proskurina and Boris Khaimisky, is a Russia-Germany co-production which was shot entirely in the State Hermitage Museum in the federal city of St. Petersburg in Northwestern Russia. It premiered In competition at the 55th Cannes International Film Festival in 2002 and was produced by Russian producer Andrey Deryabin, German screenwriter, producer and director Jens Meurer and producer Karsten Stöter. It tells the story about a French aristocrat named Marquis de Custine and called the European who walks through an 18th century Winter Palace, formerly inhabited by Russian czars, in Saint Petersburg during the 19th century. While examining a world of historic art and culture and encountering various people from different periods in time, the European engages in a communication with an unnamed man who accompanies him through the giant museum.

Distinctly and engagingly directed by Russian filmmaker Alexandr Sokurov who created the visual concept and principal image design for the film, this quietly paced and astonishing historic drama which alternates between the point of view of the narrator (Alexandr Sokurov) and his companion, draws a remarkable portrayal of an ongoing conversation between a French writer and a Russian while they are moving from one salon to another and one period to another. While notable for its somewhat surreal and colorful milieu depictions, stellar costume design by costume designers Tamara Seferyan, Maria Grishanova and Lidiya Kryukova, cinematography by German cinematographer Tilman Büttner and art direction by Russian production designer and art director Yelena Zhukova and production designer and costume designer Natalia Kochergina, this dialog-driven story has a fine score by Russian composer Sergey Yevtushenko.

This visually exquisite, profoundly atmospheric and fairytale-like tour through history and time in one of the oldest and largest museums of the world, was shot in one single continuous take, contains a cast of 867 actors, some scenes of sheer cinematic magic and is impelled by Russian actor Sergei Dreyden`s vivacious acting performance. A meritorious achievement from a visionary filmmaker and a magnificent homage to humanity, art, culture and history which gained, among other awards, the Visions Award Alexandr Sokurov at the 27th Toronto International Film Festival in 2002 and the Nika Award for Best Production designer Yelena Zhukova and Natalia Kochergina at the Nika Awards in 2004.
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