Alexander Sokurov's “Russian Ark,” premiering in Geneva at the Smith Opera House on . 18, earned a considerable amount of buzz after last year's Cannes Film Festival for its major technical achievement: a choreographed feature-length film that is made up of one long tracking shot. With no editing, no interruptions, no dissolves or other lab effects, the veteran Russian director has created a 96-minute “director's cut” that has no cuts.
Sokurov created a special hard drive capable of holding his 96 minutes of footage. He spent seven months preparing his thousands of costumed extras, choreographing their every move to engage with the camera, and then shot the film in less than two hours.
As the film begins, an invisible narrator (Sokurov), whose point of view we assume, finds himself suddenly transported back to the early 1700s. No one can see him except the French Marquis de Custine (Sergey Dreiden), who has himself been transported there from the 19th century. The Marquis was a real person, who, among other things, worked as a travel writer.
Together the two guides enter the Hermitage museum in St. Petersberg, maneuver through 33 rooms, and exit again. They witness great works of art, meet people from both the past and the present, and they bicker over what they've seen from two points of view: the Marquis from a Western outsider's view, and the narrator with the hindsight of history.
“Russian Ark” plays at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18, 19 and 20 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21. In Russian with subtitles, this unrated film has a running time of one hour, 36 minutes. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. All seats on Thursday are $3.
The Smith Opera House is located at 82 Seneca Street in Geneva. Call 315-781-LIVE or toll-free 1-866-355 LIVE for additional information. The Smith is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva and by contributions from individual supporters.