[Reader-list] Russian Ark - Art, museology and history

renu swaminathan iyer iyer_renu at rediffmail.com
Wed Jun 16 15:58:24 IST 2004

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An art gallery here in Pune recently screened the film 'Russian Ark' by Alexander Sokurov at an inaugural function to discuss the politics of museology and art history. The film exercise was nothing if not critical to the discussion, and I hope more such screenings and discussion are in the offing here and elsewhere.

The film is a brilliant meditation on art, museuology, history, anthropology and Russia all captured in this lurid and lush world’s first ever one-take, entirely unedited feature film. I'd recommend this film to anyone with a more than passing interest in the above.

Focusing on three centuries of Russian history, from Peter the Great to Tsar Nicholas II, Russian Ark, takes the viewer into the great Hermitage Collection in St. Petersburg, Russia, showing real works of art from 33 rooms and exploring their meaning in a larger context. Most importantly the film is a sublime meditation on the individual's place in the universe, one that does not recreate history but allows us to revisit it on a dreamlike stage where past, present, and future are one. 

Russian Ark is a refined examination of the links between past and present, various art forms, Russian and European civilisation, illusion and reality; arthouse aspirations that serve as a beautiful eulogy of cinema history, a noble, elegiac testament to celluloid.
The film is an allusive celebration tinged with melancholy, a closure, an opening, a deliciously surreal journey from within a disturbed mind, through a cultural warren. It is a meditation on vision, voyeurism, identity, an ethereal exploration of time and history, a remembrance of things past and eternity. 

For an indepth guide to understanding the history found in Russian Ark
here are some official websites: http://webpages.acs.ttu.edu/cmcdouga/arkhome.htm
Official Russian Ark Website
The Island of Sokurov
The Hermitage Museum


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