Archive of films Russian Ark / Russkij kovčeg

Russia / Germany / USA
2002, 90 min

Section: Horizons
Year: 2002

The exalted splendour of the Hermitage, reflecting the pinnacle of Russian culture, provides the ideal environment for a journey into the past, for encounters with important figures in Russian history, and thus also for reflection on their key values and dilemmas.


A contemporary Russian filmmaker unexpectedly stumbles into the past and finds himself in the Hermitage in St Petersburg, surrounded by early 17th century society. Accompanied by a French diplomat he then passes through various epochs and, before stormy events and twists of fate release him back to the present, he marvels with the foreigner at the bizarre and incredible deeds of those who once held the Russian empire in their grasp. In long, sweeping shots, almost without any editing, czarinas and czars file past the camera, including the last emperor, while the two men conduct a passionate discussion on what they witness in these grand palatial halls. The Frenchman’s commentary represents traditional Western European contempt and also admiration for this mysterious and somewhat exotic country; the filmmaker’s words express the division within Russians who reject and also acknowledge European culture. Sokurov declares: “I do not perceive my film as a return to history; Russia’s relationship with Europe is just as much a key issue now as it was at anytime in the past”.

About the director

Alexander Sokurov (b. l95l) studied history and then documentary filmmaking at Moscov´s VGIK film school. His rich filmography includes mayn documentary and feature films that have won awards at numerous festivals: the following is a selections: The lonely Voices of Man (Odinoky golos chelovieka, l979), Sad Insensitivity (Skorbnoye bescuvstviye, l983-87), Days of the Eclipse (Dni zatmienyia, l988), Save and Protect (Spasi i sokhrani, l989), The Second Circle (Krug vtoroy, l99O), Stone (Kameń, l992), Whispering Pages (Tikhyie stranitsy, l993), Oriental Elegy (Vostochnaya eleghia, l996), Mother and Son (Mať i syn, l997). Molokh, 1999) is a study of Hitler, and Taurus (Tyelets, 2000) of Lenin, whilst his last film Russian Ark seeks the roots of Russian spiritual culture.

About the film

Black & white, 35 mm

Section: Horizons
Director: Alexander Sokurov
Screenplay: Alexander Sokurov, Anatolij Nikiforov/Anatoly Nikiforov
Dir. of Photography: Tilman Büttner
Music: Sergej Jevtušenko / Sergey Yevtushenko
Producer: Jens Meurer, Karsten Stöter, Andrej Derjabin/Andrey Deryabin, Martin Scorsese
Production: Egoli Tossell Film AG, Hermitage Bridge Studio, Cappa Productions
Cast: Sergej Dreiden/Sergey Dreiden, Maria Kuznetsova, Leonid Mozgovoj/Leonid Mozgovoy,Michael Piotrovski/Mikhail Piotrovski, David Giorgobiani

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