20 thoughts on “Russian Ark of Oddities

  1. There are some extant photos of the Tsar and friends in costume for a ball, possibly the one referred to in the film. I’ll see if I can scare them up. The movie does indeed sound rather pharmaceutically inspired.

    1. If it’s supposed to be the Romanov Tercentenary Ball of 1913, then it’d probably be a very formal contemporary ball, not ‘costumed’ (which is usually considered less than formal). There’s some interesting discussions of that event at http://www.angelfire.com/pa/ImperialRussian/royalty/russia/1913.html & http://blog.someonewaswrongontheinternet.com/post/2013/12/26/The-Last-Imperial-Russian-Ball-1903-or-1913

      But yeah, the movie? Totes cray :)

      1. Pretty sure it was the 1903. I found some nice pics online which I will post. When I figure out how. Somewhere I have 4 pics in a hardcopy file.

  2. I tried to watch this years ago, mostly because I wanted to see the 18th century costumes… But being very firmly in the “MUST HAVE PLOT” camp, I ditched out. Now seeing those screenshots, I’m glad I didn’t bother. I DO like the 1830s hair, tho!

  3. I thought the ending explained the dreamy, ahistorical quality. Not knowing much about Russian historical costume, I enjoyed it a lot…especially the handsome officers! ;)

  4. I saw it too thinking it was a synopsis of Russian History from Peter I founding his city to the tercentennial in 1913. Boy, was I wrong. I agree about the spiking your drink of choice with hallucinogenic drugs. Costumes were awful.

    The Hermitage has actual garments of Catherine I, Elizabeth Petrovna (Elizabeth I) and Catherine II (The Great), Marie Feodorovna, Alexandra Feodorovna and OTMA. So does the palace at Tsarkoye Selo — Alexander Palace.

    So why would costumes be off. Massive amounts of Drugs.

  5. I think it was intended to be a reflection of pre-revolutionary Russia. PIty they forgot about the other 98% of the population. I do recall watching it, because it was Russia and the Hermitage and being rather disappointed. I have watched other films that are essentially plotless and loved them because they are about something.

  6. That first paragraph is the best description of Russian Ark I have ever seen! Totally a WTF film if you just stumble upon it. That wacky 1830s stuff is the most redeeming thing, costume-wise.

  7. This movie is about the story of Hermitage Museum (and so a little bit of Russian History). When you are very into Russian History, you could quitte easily recognise the characters. (Peter the Great and his wife Catherine the I, Catherine the Great, Pushkin and his wife Natalia, Nicholas II and his family, the Director of the museum discuting with his own father who played a great part during the WWII in saving the Museum during Leningrad siege).
    Director Alexander Sokurov is known for his strange movies; He also did one about the Louvre Museum (called “Francofonia”).

    The European is supposed to be the Marquis de Custine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquis_de_Custine

    The final ball scene is NOT the 1913 ball as it is gathering together all the characters form all the periods. It’s supposed to be a gathering of all the balls which took place at the Hermitage palace.

    The ball music is directed by the great conductor Valery Gergiev, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valery_Gergiev

    I agree aout the 18th century outifts, they’re not very accurate. I think the movie is quitte successful in the 1830 and in recreating the 149th Russian court dresses.

    Hope this helps to understand this OVNI-movie! :-)

    1. Yeah, right answer. Also is a kind of homage to the Russian “grandeur” before 1917. There’s even a short sequence where the “Marquis” opens a door that leads to a “revolutionary” moment, we see a kind of soldier (or whatever he may be) in a room filled with what appears to be coffins, both the marquis and the narrator leave immediately. It’s a dream-like fantasy about the Hermitage, a kind of “ark”(chest) containing what the director considers the best of Russian History. All the people in the movie are (supposed to be) ghosts from a better and long gone past. I love the movie but you need to be patient to watch it. I agree with you that the Russian-style formal court dress are great, specially the “modernized” kokoshniks.

  8. Well, the Wikipedia article introduces the film thusly: “An unnamed narrator wanders through the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. The narrator implies that he died in some horrible accident and is a ghost drifting through the palace. In each room, he encounters various real and fictional people from various periods in the city’s 300-year history. He is accompanied by ‘the European’, who represents the Marquis de Custine, a nineteenth-century French traveler.” I haven’t actually seen the film so I can’t know how coherent all of this came across on screen, but the explanation makes the plot seem much more comprehensible and interesting I think.

  9. I loved this film – I think it’s more like a poem than a prose work, if that makes sense. So rather than a plot (a happens, then b, then c, etc.) it’s like a dreamy reverie about Russian history, and most importantly, Russian identity. I took the Hermitage to signify Russia, which like an arc is tossed between Europe and Asia.

    The costumes are quite funny at times, some are great but others are very ‘theatrical troupe’.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: