Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. Russia/Germany, 2002. The State Hermitage Museum, The Hermitage Bridge Studio, Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Angelegenheiten der Kultur und der Medien, Filmbüro NW, WDR/Arte, Fora Film, Koppmedia, NHK, Seville Pictures, YLE TV1, Danmarks Radio, AST Studio, Mariinsky Theatre, Egoli Tossell Film, Filmboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Filmförderung Hamburg, Kulturelle Filmförderung Sachsen. Dialogue by Boris Khaimsky, Svetlana Proskurina, Aleksandr Sokurov, Written by Anatoli Nikiforov, Aleksandr Sokurov. Cinematography by Tilman Buttner. Produced by Andrey Deryabin, Jens Meurer, Karsten Stoter. Music by Sergei Yevtushenko. Production Design by Natalya Kochergina, Elena Zhukova. Costume Design by Maria Grishanova, Lidiya Kryukova, Tamara Seferyan. Film Editing by Stefan Ciupek, Sergey Ivanov, Betina Kuntzscz. Cannes Film Festival 2002. Toronto International Film Festival 2002.
A feat of technical expertise, this film by Aleksandr Sokurov is a fascinating experiment that was filmed at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Shot in one long, continuous take without interruption, the film goes from room to room in the museum where various aspects of Russian history (Catherine The Great, The Romanovs, nuclear arms, communism) from the last two hundred years are either acted out by countless extras in period costume, or described through the various forms of art that are on display. There is an off-camera narrator, presumably the voice of the cameraman, as well as an on-camera host who represents a French time traveler learning about the history that he is viewing as he goes along. It is languid and elegant, a beautiful film that is something of a learning experience, with the only drawback being that it isn’t very accessible to those who aren’t very familiar with Russian history. Some viewers will find themselves wishing they had brought an encyclopedia with them, while others will be so impressed by the technical accomplishment of this film that they won’t care that they hardly know what’s going on.