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The Cinema of Alexander SokurovFigures of Paradox$
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Jeremi Szaniawski

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231167352

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231167352.001.0001

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Russian Ark

Russian Ark

Imperial Elegy

(p.165) Chapter Eleven Russian Ark
The Cinema of Alexander Sokurov

Jeremi Szaniawski

Columbia University Press

This chapter looks at Russian Ark (2002). At the core of every museum and cinematic project lies a similar utopian drive. It consists of conflating a diverse set of temporalities within a block of space and time, and infusing them with a new life. Russian Ark represents the apex of this drive. Originally conceived as another instalment in the documentary cycle of elegies, this time a commission by the Hermitage State Museum to showcase its prestigious collection, the film is an extravagant cinematic accomplishment. No discussion of this film seems to be able to circumvent the technical feat at its core. As so often in Sokurov, personal and simple emotions predominate within a complex and ambitious philosophical frame. The central metaphor, contained in the film's title, posits the museum as an ark containing European civilization. Russian Ark serves to illustrate the paradoxical wholeness of Sokurov's cinema, torn between past and future, movement and stasis, fragment and totality.

Keywords:   Hermitage State Museum, museum, ark, European civilization, past, future

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