Russkiy Kovcheg

Russia, Germany, Japan, Canada , Finland, Denmark

Synopsis

Invisible to everyone around him, a contemporary filmmaker magically finds himself in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg - back in the early 1700s! He meets a cynical French diplomat from the 19th Century and the men become accomplices in an extraordinary time-travelling journey through Russia's turbulent past - ending in the present day. Exploring the splendid corridors and salons of the Palace, the Marquis and the filmmaker witness astonishing scenes from the Tsarist Empire: Peter the Great thrashes his general with a whip; during rehearsals of her own play, Catherine the Great rushes around looking for a place to relieve herself; the family of the last Tsar dine together, quite oblivious to the impending revolution. And hundreds of dancers waltz at the last Great Royal Ball of 1913 with Valery Gergiev conducting. As their time-voyage unfolds in a single, uncut steadicam shot, the two men engage in a passionate and ironic dispute. The Marquis clearly has a Western love-hate relationship with Russia, whereas the modern filmmaker questions his country's uneasy connection to its past and to Europe today. The two tease each other, and share their amazement at the scenes they encounter.

Director's Statement

I'm no theoretician, I'm a practical director. I have never had any desire to uncover anything new. This idea of the long, unbroken shot has existed for years. I never do anything new... I am interested only in classical form and content. In the professional world, much of the art has been utterly forgotten and therefore my conduct is sometimes seen as radical, but it's simply that I remember a lot... the very fact of art itself is unshakeable; art was perfected long ago. Here, shooting in a single take is an achievement in formal terms, but more than that it is a tool with the aid of which a specific artistic task can be resolved. It's just a tool. It is called breathing. One has to live a specific amount of time in a single breath. Back in the spring of 1999 the producer Andrey Deryabin suggested that I take on a serious production based around the Hermitage collection. He knows my great admiration, my almost reverential attitude to this museurn. I had an idea but it was very expensive and complicated to put into effect. This idea was for a film shot, as it were 'in a single breath'.
The screen format, cinematography — everything depends on the scissors, on the knife. Editors and producers accumulate, then edit using time according to their own whims. And I wanted to try and fit myself into the very flowing of time, without remaking it according to my wishes. I wanted to try and have a natural collaboration with time, to live that one and a half hours as if it were merely breathing in... and out. That was the ultimate, the sole artistic task...
Before this, nobody had every tried it. In order to make a film in a single breath the many different components within the whole concept have to be in accord with each other, all the different parts have to be linked together, and each must flow from the previous part... one has to grow a tree, as it were. Whenever I'm working on a film I seek to grow a tree. Not a bush, but a tree. That is the principle which has guided me through many years in the cinema...

Director's Biography

Alexander Sokurov born in 1951 in the village of Podorvikha, Irkutsk Region, USSR. Graduated from the History Faculty of Gorky State University in 1974, then the Directing Faculty of The All-Union State Institute of Cinematography, Moscow. Since 1980 he has lived and worked in St Petersburg. Director of feature films and documentaries.
In 1995 he was declared one of the best international directors by the European Academy of Cinema.
Winner of the International Vatican Prize "Third Millennium" (1998, for the development of humanist ideal in cinematic art).

Feature Film Filmography:

2002 RUSSIAN ARK
2000 TAURUS
1999 MOLOCH
1996 MOTHER AND SON
1993 WHISPERING PAGES
1992 STONE
1990 THE SECOND CIRCLE
1989 SAVE AND PROTECT
1988 DAYS OF ECLIPSE
1986 EMPIRE
1983 PAINFUL INDIFFERENTE
1980 THE DEGRADED
1978 A LONELY VOICE OF MAN
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Alexander Sokurov

Written by: Alexander Sokurov, Anatoli Nikiforov

Produced by: Jens Meurer, Karsten Stöter, Andrey Deryabin

Cinematography: Tilman Büttner, Tilman Büttner

Costume Design: Lidiya Kryukova, Tamara Seferyan, Maria Grishanova

Make-Up & Hair: Zhanna Rodionova, Lyudmila Kozinets

Original Score: Sergei Yevtushenko

Sound Design: Vladimir Persov, Sergey Moshkov

Main Cast: Mariya Kuznetsova (Catherine The Great), Oleg Khmelnitsky (Himself ), Leonid Mozgovoy (The Spy), Alla Osipenko (Herself ), Mikhail Piotrovsky (Himself (Hermitage Director) ), Artyom Strelnikov (Talented Boy), David Giorgobiani (Orbeli ), Tamara Kurenkova (Herself (Blind Woman)), Maksim Sergeev (Peter the Great), Natalya Nikulenko (Catherine the Great), Sergey Dreyden (The Stranger), Aleksandr Chaban (Boris Piotrovsky), Lev Eliseev (Himself)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Director 2002
  • European Cinematographer – Prix Carlo Di Palma 2002
  • Feature Film Selection 2002