It is impossible and unrealistic for filmmakers to get to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the main treasury of works of art in Russia. For any amount of money.
But the movie Russian Ark directed by Alexander Sokurov caught the interest of the Ministry of Culture of Russia.
Of course, Alexander Sokurov had a choice. Louvre Museum and the Prado offered him to shoot the movie at their locations. But it would have been a very different film…
The museum is impossible to close for filming, unthinkable. But one Sunday it became possible to break the resistance of art historians – the museum was closed.
Sokurov had just a couple of hours to shoot the movie Russian Ark.
Just think about it – just a couple of hours to shoot the entire film.
No second takes!
It is absolutely impossible anywhere else. Only in Russia, that still preserves the original traditions of filmmaking.
The movie Russian Ark was shot in one continuous shot. Not clear? The movie was shot without any editing. Yes, you heard right. Without any cutting. In one continuous action. The whole ninety minutes.
The operator carried a 35 kg camera for the whole ninety minutes. And the recording was done without the usual compression – in full format – directly to a hard drive.
Preparing for the Shoot
Rehearsals for shooting took more than five months. It was impossible to use the same actors in different roles, because they wouldn’t have time to change clothes and makeup. Alexander Sokurov hired a huge team – more than 2,000 actors.
33 halls of the Hermitage museum were ready to accommodate the film crew.
The night before the shooting prop men came and styled the rooms – added flowers, special decorative coverings – for one historical period, glued crosses on the windows for another terrible time of the siege.
By morning, everything was done. The rooms were ready and the actors were dressed and made-up.
The crew arrived.
What’s in the Movie
The treasure-house of Russia – Hermitage –is a palace turned into a museum. The history of Russia for 300 years. Gorgeous costumes. 3 live orchestras, including the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra conducted by Valery Georgiev. The actors of the Mariinsky Theatredancing mazurka to the music of Russian composer Glinka from the opera “A Life for the Tsar”. And much, much more.
Russian Ark trailer
The movie Russian Ark caused a very warm reception by critics and audiences in Russia and on both sides of the ocean. For example, the movie was recognized as the best film in Italy. And it made the most money during theatrical release in the United States. Paradoxically, the project remained an art-house project and was inaccessible to a wide audience in Russia. Today, to see the movie, you will have to fly to France or the United States.