The Hermitage is to be seen in a new and revealing light in a forthcoming film, a unique ninety-minute panorama of the most famous palace in Russia, now one of the great museums of the world. And more than a museum. In the popular imagination the Hermitage is a living entity, a fabric that breathes Russian history and culture. Quite apart from the endless procession of people who have come to admire its many artistic treasures, generations of the Romanov family actually lived, loved, and, in some cases, died in a place they called 'home' for all its rare splendour.

The new film will attempt to recreate, as precisely as possible, the historical events which took place in and around the palace. Nowadays such an effect can be best achieved by employing all the scope and scale of a spectacular modern medium to convey the full sweep of history through a sequence of truly majestic rooms. In the words of the director, Alexander Sokurov: "We are creating a film about the Hermitage, for the Hermitage".



On the 23rd of December an unprecedented event will take place in St Petersburg. Inside the Hermitage the film director, Alexander Sokurov, will shoot a feature-length film, The Russian Ark, in an hour and a half of real time. The camera will be switched on and ninety minutes later switched off after proceeding through thirty-five rooms, crossing four centuries, and re-enacting history on the grand scale by means of an array of sophisticated effects. As many as eight hundred and fifty actors and extras will take part in some of the scenes in this unique production.

Of course, a film-maker as serious as Sokurov is not really concerned about setting records, in terms of size and quantity, for example. He is motivated more by a sense of artistic purpose, by the idea of making an expansive film, in one breath, as it were. The film, like all films by Sokurov, will contain his visual meditations on the history of the Russian people and the lives of their descendants today, an amazing voyage through war, revolution, and social upheaval, which has left in its wake all the landmarks of a great culture. Like the biblical Ark, the Hermitage has steered a difficult course through the adverse currents of time and tide. A treasure-house of life and art, it is also a testament to the buoyancy of the human spirit.

We have lost or forgotten some of our traditions; we have greatly altered our way of life, for better or for worse; and our social behaviour and attitudes towards each other have changed radically over the centuries. Only the creation of the finest art, architecture, music and literature can sustain the idea of a greater humanity, and give it a point of anchorage for the future, a safe haven from the storm.

will take place at one of the big international film festivals in 2002.

THE RUSSIAN PREMIER will take place in May 2003
during the celebration of St Petersburg's 300th birthday.

 · ALEXANDER SOKUROV: In one breath
 · Mikhail PIOTROVSKY: The haunted museum


© Copyright by Hermitage Bridge Studio (2001)

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