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"Russian Ark" 2002 Alexander Sokurov


Throughout the history of film, movies traditionally have the structure of scene changes and cuts within the scenes to clearly illustrate each given moment demonstrated through wide, medium, and close-up shots. In 2001, Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov created an experimental film where the entire 90 minutes is just one long uninterrupted shot of 2,000 people acting as members of the Russian Royal family and friends at the Winter Palace (Known as Hermitage Museum today). The intention of this film was to show Russian history during the times of Nicholas II, prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917.


As the film opens, viewers were unsure what perspective the film was going to be portrayed in because the narrative was hard to understand which may be why the viewers found it hard to understand the whole point of why this content is being shown, a Royal family party with 2,000 people in a country that is currently weak and is about to go through a violent revolution to change the country’s history forever. On top of the content, viewers may think this film was one of the most challenging films ever made because as viewers were watching, they may have thought there was a cut or may not have even realized at first, but the movie kept going with no interruptions until it ended, which likely stunned viewers.


Prior to this film, viewers were already used to the fact that all long films had cuts in it since they thought it was completely impossible to accomplish this technique. Viewers are aware that cameras can only handle so much, and the cinematographer for this film likely found new ways to make this possible where they would use a large hard drive disc, batteries or a power source that can allow the camera to be ran continuously during the 90-minute-long tracking scene. On the other hand, this film was very challenging to make because if there was a bad moment or an error with one of the behind-the-scenes crew or actors that the take would have to start over and run for another 90 minutes. Due to the compressed time and how much needed to be done, there was no dress rehearsal as there was also only one day allowed by the museum for production to take place.


“Russian Ark” changed film history forever because viewers have never seen a film without one single cut. It was quite interesting to see an actual Czar’s former palace converted back to its original form because it allows the viewers to visually understand how the Russian society was from a different perspective than shown in other forms such as Soviet Propaganda films, which covered the lower class of citizens where this film showed the highest possible class of people in Monarchy Russia.


As this film was experimental, some filmmakers created more one-shot feature length films, but other filmmakers and cinematographers have disagreed with this practice because it is a bit excessive for the actors and behind the scenes crew to endure an intense technique of film. Although this film was a success, viewers are unsure how future films would turn out if this technique was used on a story with a completely different theme, especially imagining what “The Wizard of Oz” would look like if there were no cuts during the entire journey from Munchkinland to the Wizard’s palace.

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