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Directed by Aleksandr Sokurov

Russia 2002 99 mins. In Russian

“RUSSIAN ARK is both a dazzling technical tour-de-force and a love letter to Russian culture. Unfolding in real time in a single, dreamlike, uncut digital video take, it tracks a contemporary filmmaker (Sokurov) and a mercurial 19th-century French diplomat, the Marquis de Custine—tour guides on a phantasmagoric, time-traveling journey through St. Petersburg’s opulent Hermitage Museum. Swirling through the galleries of time, we encounter its first resident, Catherine the Great; the family of Czar Nicholas II; current Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky; and regular Russian art lovers. Requiring seven months of rehearsal, 1,000 costumed actors, the equivalent of 33 soundstages, and a live orchestra performance, the exhilarating final film was shot in just the amount of time it takes to watch it. But beyond the seamless logistical achievement, RUSSIAN ARK creates a moving testimony to human resiliency and the survival of culture. Sampling history and some of the world’s most exquisite art and artifacts, it is, like the Hermitage itself, a veritable Russian Ark.”—28th Portland International Film Festival.