Russian Ark

I watched Russian Ark this week.  I might preface by saying that I was a little confused by this movie, not only because of the artistic license  but also because, having no real knowledge of what early Russian figures looked like, I had no idea who some of the people were until I looked it up online.

In any case, I was very impressed by this movie.  It clearly required so much painstaking choreography to film this movie in a single shot.  As a museum buff, I loved the fact that it all took place in the Hermitage.  It could be said to be a metaphor of Russia because it stood strong through so many years, and each person the European and the narrator met there had a special love and nostalgia for some part of the museum.  I found the scene of the man building his own coffin during the siege of Leningrad to be very haunting, showing how a sign of aristocratic authority could be transformed into a graveyard.  A;so, the scene of the museum directors discussing their problems of trying to foster culture under Stalin and their paranoia over being discovered echoed everything we have discussed in class this semester.  It was made even more moving by the narrator trying to refute what he said, as if he was being interrogated by a Soviet official.  Finally, Alexandra thinking she hears gun shots as Anastasia dances through the gallery was sad because it showed a happy family on the brink of total destruction.

There was a strong sense of nationalism in this movie.  There was a strict line drawn between Russia and Europe, as if they are two separate entities.  Strangely, there was a disdain for imperialism echoed by the European, but though he was meant to be French, it was hard to tell for whom this was a criticism.  There was also commentary on the government, wondering about its state and whether it could be called a republic.  After our two discussions this week, I can see where that concern stems from, since the government does not always work for the people.  The phrase the stood out the most was “In Russian, freedom knows no price.”  I think this accurately describes the attempts to reconfigure the Russian government after 1917, but freedoms have taken to mean different things to different people.

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