Russian Ark

Critics Consensus

As successful as it is ambitious, Russian Ark condenses three centuries of Russian history into a single, uninterrupted, 87-minute take.



Total Count: 104


Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,691
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Russian Ark Photos

Movie Info

Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov broke boundaries with his dreamlike vision of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russian Ark. It's the first feature-length narrative film shot in a single take (on digital video, using a specially designed disc instead of tape). Russian Ark is shot from the point-of-view of an unseen narrator, as he explores the museum and travels through Russian history. The audience sees through his eyes as he witnesses Peter the Great (Maksim Sergeyev) abusing one of his generals; Catherine the Great (Maria Kuznetsova) desperately searching for a bathroom; and, in the grand finale, the sumptuous Great Royal Ball of 1913. The narrator is eventually joined by a sarcastic and eccentric 19th century French Marquis (Sergey Dreiden), who travels with him throughout the huge grounds, encountering various historical figures and viewing the legendary artworks on display. While the narrator only interacts with the Marquis (he seems to be invisible to all the other inhabitants), the Marquis occasionally interacts with visitors and former residents of the museum. The film was obviously shot in one day, but the cast and crew rehearsed for months to time their movements precisely with the flow of the camera while capturing the complex narrative, with elaborate costumes from different periods, and several trips out to the exterior of the museum. Tilman Büttner, the director of photography, was responsible for capturing it all in one single Steadicam shot.


Sergei Dontsov
as The Marquis
Maria Kuznetsova
as Catherine II the Great
Mariya Kuznetsova
as Catherine the Great
Maksim Sergeyev
as Peter the Great
Alexandr Chaban
as Boris Piotrovsky
Vladimir Baranov
as Nicholas II
Anna Aleksakhina
as Alexandra Fyodorovna
Valery Gergiev
as Conductor
Yuriy Zhurin
as Nicholas I
Svetlana Svirko
as Alexandra Fedorovna
Natalya Nikulenko
as Catherine the First
Vladimir Sevastyanikhin
as Tutor of the Heir
Alexander Chaban
as Boris Piotrovsky
Artem Strelnikov
as Talented Boy
Yelena Rufanova
as First Lady
Yelena Spiridonova
as Second Lady
Konstantin Anisimov
as First Cavalier
Aleksey Barabash
as Second Cavalier
Ilya Shakunov
as Third Cavalier
Alexander Kulikov
as Fourth Cavalier
Boris Smolkin
as Chancellor Nesselrode
Nataliya Nikulenko
as Catherine the Great
Sergei Nadporozhniy
as Court Official
Alexander Razbash
as Museum Official
Kirill Miller
as Court Official
Viktor Mikhailov
as Court Official
Sergei Muchenikov
as Museum Official
Yuri Orlov
as Grandee of Catherine the Great
Oleg N. Yefremov
as Museum Official
Valentina Yegorenkova
as Maid of Honour of Catherine the Great
Lev Yeliseev
as Himself
Artiom Strelnikov
as Talented Boy
Mikhail Dorofeyev
as 1st Card Player
Alexander Malnykin
as Minister of Peter the Great
Svetlana Gaitan
as Custodian at the Museum
Yevgeny Filatov
as 2nd Card Player
Vadim Guschin
as Grandee of Catherine the Great
Vadim Lobanov
as Lord Chamberlain
Kirill Dateshidze
as Master of Ceremonies
Sergei Losev
as Court Official
Jury Khomutyansky
as Insane Italian
Valentin Bukin
as Military Official
Vladimir Lisetsky
as Court Minister
View All

Critic Reviews for Russian Ark

All Critics (104) | Top Critics (31) | Fresh (93) | Rotten (11)

Audience Reviews for Russian Ark

  • Apr 18, 2015
    Russian Ark should be remembered not only as a breathtaking logistic accomplishment that knocked me off my chair with its stunning single take using a Steadicam and digital technology, but also as a sumptuous travel through Russian history and an unforgettable homage to the Hermitage Museum and to Art itself.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2013
    A never-seen ghostlike figure wanders through the Hermitage Museum (previously home to the Czars) in St. Petersburg, watching re-enactments of Russian history and debating art and culture with a French aristocrat companion. With thousands of extras, it's pulled off in one amazing 95-minute take. It's more than a bit stuffy and tailored to the delicate sensibilities of the fine arts crowd, but it's impossible not to be impressed by the pageantry and technical achievement.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Feb 25, 2013
    Visually, second to none. The film is shot in one take and as unexciting as it sounds, it's quite well done. The plot is thin, at best and the sound design is muddled and messy until the final scene. The downfall of the film as well as its success is that it's shot in one take, which means certain scenes are overexposed and others are too dark to see anything, due to the fact that changing exposures during the same shot is quite messy and nearly unforgiveable. Zoom lense is employed throughout and seems to only serve the purpose of getting the framing correct in certain scenes until the operator can catch up with the action. This, in turn, also looks sloppy and degrades the quality of the film. Overall, an interesting film, but I'd struggle to be able to watch it again because the sound design is some of the worst I've ever heard.
    Jason 123 D Super Reviewer
  • Sep 19, 2012
    Wonderful concept and gorgeous execution. The viewer moves throughout history to bring alive the story of a building which continues to be of fundamental importance to the Russian people.
    John B Super Reviewer

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