by Chiara Nano
23/05/2002 - Alexander Sokurov is not a happy man today. The screening of his magnificent 1´46 single-sequence look at 400 years of Russian history was ruined when the projectionist made a mistake changing the spools. «Russian Ark is the first single-sequence film to have been made using a digital steadycam. The crew gave their all and this is how their superhuman efforts were rewarded,» complains the bitterly disappointed Sokurov. "Cannes is so proud of its reputation but if this is the best they can do, then it does not deserve to have our film. They ruined our work,» he continues.
Fortunately for Sokurov, the critics saw beyond the technical glitch and lavished praise upon his historical journey through the 33 grand rooms of the Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg.
Did you edit this film?
There was no visual editing to this film but we worked extensively and at length on mixing the sound. When we began shooting, we had three false starts within the first five minutes: the opening scene was extremely complicated and made more so by the great number of elaborate costumes and decorations.
What is the concept behind this endless sequence in the Hermitage?
I wanted a film that would evolve on its own time and in a natural way. Some filmmakers believe that film is the result of manipulation or a betrayal of time. In visual terms that puts you on dangerous ground.
Rarely have so many artworks been seen in one film...
The El Grecos, Rembrandts, Van Dycks and all the others tell the story of Russia´s artistic and cultural relationship with the rest of Europe. This is not an historical film. Cinema was created to help and sustain art, not to replace it.