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RUSSIAN ARKAlexander Sokurov's extraordinary masterpiece, RUSSIAN ARK is a unique journey through time and Russian history.
Filmed entirely in the State Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Sokurov's breathtaking film recreates 300 years of history and culture and is the first entirely unedited, single take, full-length feature film.
A contemporary Russian filmmaker magically finds himself in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
He meets a cynical French diplomat from the nineteenth century, the Marquis de Custine, and the two men become accomplices in an extraordinary, time-travelling journey through Russia's turbulent past. Together they encounter life at the Imperial Palace as it was through different ages from Catherine the Great's backstage love affairs to the last Tsar's ball in 1913 in the Winter Palace, the panorama unfolds in Europe's most beautiful planned city.
RUSSIAN ARK combines state of the art digital technology, strong storytelling, lavish production values and a highly personal mise-en-scene. Sokurov's vision - featuring more than 2000 actors and extras - was realised entirely 'in camera'. After months of careful planning and choreographed rehearsals, the entire film was shot by Tilman Büttner in a single day, in one recording, in a single uninterrupted steadicam sequence. The ultimate 'directors cut', there is no editing as the film unfolds in pure real time.
Pushing the boundaries of filmmaking, RUSSIAN ARK is the first ever uncompressed High Definition movie, recorded onto a portable hard-disk system, rather than 35mm or tape. The Hermitage is the Russian Ark, affectionately guarding art and history until the world sees better days.
The making of RUSSIAN ARK is a story of records and firsts - the first entirely unedited, single screen, single take, full-length feature film; the longest-ever steadicam sequence, the first ever uncompressed HD Movie, recorded onto a portable hard disk system, rather than 35mm or tape.
But it is the making of a film with a director who is not at all interested in "firsts" and "records" and who has no special fascination for inventing anything "new". Instead Alexander Sokurov is a director who is concerned with the simple principal elements of cinema: sound, image, time.
When we set off on this journey that was to become RUSSIAN ARK, more than four years ago, it sounded novel but straightforward. "I am sick of editing", Sokurov said, "let's not be afraid of time". His idea for a one-shot digital film moving in real time through the rooms and halls of the Hermitage seemed wonderfully simple and even easy. Digital video, one shooting day, no editing! A producer's dream. Of course, we were wrong. RUSSIAN ARK was a tour de force - beyond what always turns out to be a tough process. Years of developing an idea that most people could not comprehend or believed impossible to carry out. Months of rehearsals and preparation culminating in a single take of an entire feature film on a single shooting day. A joint crew from Russia and from Germany had to function together symbiotically for a simple adrenaline-pumping moment of sheer filmmaking nerve.
Yet, when it was over, it was simple, after all. Sokurov had a vision, which poured out and came together in a single moment. It was all in his head and ninety minutes later, it was all on film. A film that really was cut in the camera.
A film that mirrors the flowing of time accurately. Like life, it is impossible to divide time.
No cut = Director's Cut.