Thursday, November 04, 2004

Russian Ark

I've not posted about a film in a while, so I thought I'd comment on a film I bought last week in hopes of introducing you to a movie that is well worth watching but which you may have missed.

Last week at Borders I was browsing among the DVDs and stumbled upon Russian Ark, a film I'd never heard of before but whose blurb intrigued me so much that I bought it along with La Dolce Vita.

Specifically, what intrigued me was its technique: it is a 90-minute long continuous (and continuously-moving) shot that roves not just through the halls and galleries of the Hermitage but through 300 years of Russian history. Watching it, though, reveals other wonders. The camera shows us what the film's main character sees; yet we never see that person, so he might as well be us. An interesting effect of the continuous shot as I watched on my TV's 30-in. screen: after a few minutes, I found myself feeling a bit motion-sick. We're so accustomed to the standard switching back and forth between characters and what they see/who they're talking to that when the camera doesn't interrupt that gaze it's as though we're forced to watch without blinking. Or something. But I also think, given the film's final scene, that feeling of dreamy motion might be intentional.

You wonder what the plot is? In the strictest sense, it doesn't really have one. It's more like a meditation on Russian history and culture from the time of Peter the Great up to those days before the revolution (though early on there is also a scene from the Putin era).

I hesitate in saying more at the moment. I do hope, though, that anyone reading this who has seen this film will post a comment. I'd like to know what other people thought of it.

No comments: