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Movie Review: Russian Ark
andersonenvy
andersonenvy
Although Russian Ark is a stifling testament to first person point of view in cinema, I see little value other than sheer spectacle. Perhaps my limited knowledge of Russian history prevented me from understanding the deeper meanings within the plot and settings, but I believe I understood the main theme: Look how hard this was to make!

In theory, the idea of a one shot movie is interesting, but in actuality, I found the film to entrap me as a viewer. I couldn’t escape the nameless character I was supposed to be, and instead of identifying with him (the lens), I felt completely disconnected. In a weird sense of limbo (no pun intended), I felt as if I wanted to look at certain objects throughout the museum, but the camera wouldn’t let me. I had to see what “he” chose to look at. Although this is true in all films, editing breaks scenes down to allow breathing room.

Another downfall to this style is the simple lack of characterization. Without close-ups, we are left wondering what any of the characters think or feel. We mostly see our guide from behind, rarely given a chance to see who he even is. Everything he says seems to be buried in obscure metaphors, disorienting the viewer even further. The lack of characterization also presents a greater problem: a lack of plot. No conflict. No resolution, simply revelation.


Although I don’t think this works as a film, I do think it’s a lesson in how grand a movie can be in scope. The presentation of the final scene is one of the most cinematically amazing things I’ve ever seen. I also like the dream-like characters and dialogue. An interesting idea of what the afterlife could be like. Characters talk in and out of themselves, creating a circular dialogue that could be taken as gibberish or an attempt to explain the human condition. This could be used to great effect, but shouldn’t be the entire discourse.

I think this type of film will never succeed in the way a classically edited film can. If one shot is the goal, why not just videotape a play? On the flip side, I think the opening sequence to Snake Eyes is wonderful, actually liberating the viewer rather than entrapping him. Perhaps, then, the key to creating an entire movie in one shot is by using an objective point of view.

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