Russian Ark  

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I open my eyes and I see nothing.
I only remember there was some accident.
Everyone ran for safety as best they could.
I just can't remember what happened to me
How strange. Where am I?
Judging by the clothes, this must be the 1800s.

--Marquis de Custine in Russian Ark (2002), incipit

Can it be that I'm invisible?
Or have I simply gone unnoticed?
Can it be?
Has all this been staged for me?
Am I expected to play a role?
What kind of play is this?
Let's hope it's not a tragedy.

--Marquis de Custine in Russian Ark (2002), 00:04

"I so hoped this was Chambord during the Directory"

I think we're speaking too loudly.
No matter.
They're completely deaf.
I'm careful.
I won't touch anyone.

Related e



Russian Ark (2002) is an experimental historical drama film directed by Alexander Sokurov. In Russian Ark, an unnamed narrator wanders through the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, and implies that he died in some horrible accident and is a ghost drifting through the palace. In each room, he encounters various real and fictional people from various periods in the city's 300-year history. He is accompanied by "the European", who represents the Marquis de Custine, a 19th-century French traveler.

The film was recorded entirely in the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum on 23 December 2001 using a one-take single 96-minute Steadicam sequence shot. Russian Ark uses the fourth wall device extensively, but repeatedly broken and re-erected. At times the narrator and the companion interact with the other performers, whilst at other times they pass unnoticed. The film was entered into the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.



On a winter's day, a small party of men and women arrive by horse-drawn carriage to a minor, side entrance of the Winter Palace, dressed in the style of the early 19th century to attend a ball hosted by the Emperor Alexander I. The narrator (whose point of view is always in first-person and who is only heard in a voice-over and never seen) meets another spectral but visible outsider, "the European", and follows him through numerous rooms of the palace. "The European", a 19th-century French diplomat who appears to be the Marquis de Custine, has nothing but contempt for Russians; he tells the narrator that they are unable to create or appreciate beauty as Europeans do, as demonstrated by the European treasures around him. Each room manifests a different period of Russian history, although the periods are not in chronological order.

Featured are Peter the Great harassing and striking one of his generals; a spectacular presentation of operas and plays in the era of Catherine the Great; an imperial audience in which Tsar Nicholas I is offered a formal apology by the Shah of Iran for the death of ambassador Alexander Griboyedov in 1829; the idyllic family life of Tsar Nicholas II's children; the ceremonial changing of the various regiments of the Imperial Guard; people touring the palace in the present; the museum's director whispering the need to make repairs during the rule of Joseph Stalin; and a desperate Leningrader making his own coffin during the 900-day siege of the city during World War II.

A grand ball follows, featuring music by Mikhail Glinka, with many of the participants in spectacular period costume, and a full orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev, then a long final exit with a crowd down the grand staircase. The European tells the narrator that he belongs here, in the world of 1913 where everything is still beautiful and elegant, and does not want to go any further. The narrator then walks backwards out the hallway and sees many people from different time periods exiting the building together. As he watches them, the narrator quietly departs the procession, leaves the building through a side door and looks out upon an endless ocean.



The film displays 33 rooms of the museum, which are filled with a cast of over 2,000 actors and three orchestras. Russian Ark was recorded in uncompressed high-definition video using a Sony HDW-F900 camera. The information was not recorded compressed to tape as usual, but uncompressed onto a hard disk which could hold 100 minutes which was carried behind the cameraman as he traveled from room to room, scene to scene. According to In One Breath, the documentary on the making of the film, four attempts were made. The first failed at the five-minute mark. After two more failed attempts, they were left with only enough battery power for one final take. The four hours of daylight available were also nearly gone. Fortunately, the final take was a success and the film was completed at 90 minutes. Tilman Büttner, the director of photography and Steadicam operator, executed the shot on 23 December 2001.

In a 2002 interview, Büttner said that film sound was recorded separately. "Every time I did the take, or someone else made a mistake, I would curse, and that would have gotten in, so we did the sound later." Lighting directors of photography on the film were Bernd Fischer and Anatoli Radionov. The director later rejected Büttner's nomination for a European Film Academy award, believing that only the whole film should gain an award.


In post-production the uncompressed HD 87-minute one-shot could be reworked in detail: besides many object removals (mainly cables and other film equipment), compositings (e.g. additional snow or fog), stabilisations, selective colour-corrections and digitally added focus changes, the whole film was continuously and dynamically reframed (resized) and for certain moments even time-warped (slowed down and sped up). This work took several weeks and was mainly executed by editor Patrick Wilfert under supervision of lead editor Sergei Ivanov on Discreet Logic's Inferno system. Avoiding any playouts and using framestore to framestore transfers only, the picture was left uncompressed, before being reprinted onto filmstock for theatrical distribution.


The narrator's guide, "the European", is based on the book by the French aristocrat Marquis de Custine, who visited Russia in 1839 and wrote La Russie en 1839, in which he depicted Russia in extremely unflattering terms. A few biographical elements from Custine's life are shown in the film. Like the European, the Marquis' mother was friends with the Italian sculptor Canova and he himself was very religious. Custine's book mocks Russian civilization as a thin veneer of Europe on an Asiatic soul. For Custine, Europe was "civilization" while Asia was "barbarism", and his placing of Russia as a part of Asia rather than Europe was meant to deny that Russians had any sort of civilization worthy of the name. Echoing this sentiment, the film's European comments that Russia is a theater and that the people he meets are actors. The Marquis's family fortune came from a porcelain works, hence the European's interest in the Sèvres porcelain waiting for the diplomatic reception. At the end of the film, which depicts the last imperial ball in 1913, the European appears to accept Russia as a European nation.

In One Breath, a documentary about the making of Russian Ark, written and directed by Knut Elstermann, gives more insight into the single long shot tracking techniques and formidable organization behind the making of the film.


Box office

The film was not a huge commercial success, though as an arthouse film it performed strongly in many territories. These include the UK, Japan, Korea, Argentina, and especially the US, where the film remains one of the most successful of both German and Russian movies of the last decades.

Russian Ark is a German-Russian co-production. The film grossed $3,011,013 in the United States and Canada, with $3,674,735 internationally, for a worldwide total of $6,685,748.

Critical response

Russian Ark received high critical acclaim. Roger Ebert wrote, "Apart from anything else, this is one of the best-sustained ideas I have ever seen on the screen.... [T]he effect of the unbroken flow of images (experimented with in the past by directors like Hitchcock and Max Ophüls) is uncanny. If cinema is sometimes dreamlike, then every edit is an awakening. Russian Ark spins a daydream made of centuries."

Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 105 reviews, with an average rating of 7.88/10. The consensus review summary reads, "As successful as it is ambitious, Russian Ark condenses three centuries of Russian history into a single, uninterrupted, 87-minute take." On Metacritic, which uses an average of critics' reviews, the film has an 86/100 rating based on 32 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".

Slant Magazine ranked the film 84th in its list of the best films of the 2000s. In a critics' and readers' poll by Empire magazine, it was voted the 358th greatest film of all time.


Russian Ark received the Visions Award at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival, a Special Citation at the 2003 San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards and the 2004 Silver Condor Award for Best Foreign Film from the Argentine Film Critics Association; it was also nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Hugo at the 2002 Chicago International Film Festival and the 2004 Nika Award for Best Film. In addition, Alexander Sokurov was named Best Director at Fancine in 2003 and was nominated for the 2002 European Film Award for Best Director. Cinematographer Tilman Büttner was also nominated for various awards for his work on the film, including a European Film Award and a German Camera Award.

Pages linking in Feb 2021

2000s in film, Agadam, Alexander Griboyedov, Alexander Sokurov, Alexandra (film), Alexey Barabash, Alexey Titarenko, Alla Osipenko, Birdman (film), CineAlta, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, Cinema of Russia, Confession (miniseries), Days of Eclipse, Deep focus, Digital cinematography, Effect of siege on Leningrad, Empire (1986 film), Fancine, Father and Son (2003 film), Faust (2011 film), Four Word Film Review, Francofonia, Hermitage Museum, Joseph Orbeli, Khosrow Mirza, List of avant-garde films of the 2000s, List of cinematic firsts, List of cult films: R, List of films about the Romanovs, Long take, Marquis de Custine, Mass media in Russia, Moloch (film), Moscow Elegy, Mother and Son (1997 film), Mournful Unconcern, One-shot film, Progressive segmented frame, Real time (media), Russia, Russian culture, Russians, Save and Protect, Seesa, Sergey Dreyden, Shot (filmmaking), Silent House (2011 film), Society and culture in Saint Petersburg, Svetlana Smirnova (actress), Take, Taurus (film), The Degraded, The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn, The Lonely Voice of Man, The Nose or the Conspiracy of Mavericks, The Second Circle, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, The Sun (film), Tourist Home (film), Valery Gergiev, Viktor Mikhaylov (actor), Virtual tour

Full text of English subtitles

I open my eyes and I see nothing.
I only remember there was some accident.
Everyone ran for safety as best they could.
I just can't remember what happened to me
How strange. Where am I?
Marie, I must tell you something.
Judging by the clothes, this must be the 1800s.
Where are they rushing off to? What if we are denied entry? I've never been so frightened! Don't forget, the girl in white is mine. Where are you all going? It's cold! Close the doors! Quickly! Move ahead! I went looking for the right way to go. Those officers don't know the way. Can it be that I'm invisible? Or have I simply gone unnoticed? Can it be? Has all this been staged for me? Am I expected to play a role? What kind of play is this? Let's hope it's not a tragedy. What does it all mean? - Where should we go? - Maybe here? No, it's there. That man in black... he wanders about, too. He nods to me but goes away. Pardon me for speaking before we've been properly introduced. What city is this? What city? Well, everyone speaks russian. I so hoped this was chambord during the directoire period. - What language are we speaking? - Russian. Russian? How strange! I never knew russian before. What are they doing in there? Shall we enter? - Where? There? - Yes, something is going on. No, I have to find out what on earth I am doing here. These wanderings about, this knowing russian... I want to leave. Your curiosity is not amusing. Could all this be theatre? Farewell! Our paths must part. Farewell. You have answered all my questions. - Farewell then. - Where does this door lead to? What a pity. We will never meet again. He was obviously a foreigner. Why would he be so rude otherwise? It's best... not to get involved in this. Let's not disturb them. In any case, it's much too late. Sir, sir! I'm here. My russian cicerone! Do you know the way? - Yes, let's go together. - This is your country. Yes, but not my century. How did I come to be here? I think I saw peter the great. I hear delight in your voice. Was it interesting? Yes, very interesting. Really. In asia, tyrants are adored. The more terrible the tyrant, the more his memory is cherished. Alexander the great, timur... and your peter the great. You're wrong about peter. He taught russians to enjoy themselves. A spiral staircase. Where has everyone disappeared to? I see. But why? What's so interesting up there? You'll see... peter ordered his son's execution. The same man who taught the people to enjoy life. How funny! I thought you knew where we were going. He built a european city over a swamp. He introduced order of the most primitive kind. - Where are they going? - But the city is still european! To a party. But why the back staircase? They were taught to have fun. So they go to parties. And the officer and the lady? - At the party. - Where are they? They've gone to the underworld. Down, down, down! And they are no more. Be careful. The stairs are steep and dark. Thank you. I can see. Do you see where we are? No, I don't know yet. Sir, be careful! Don't betray our presence. No need to remind me. Do not forget I brought you here. Please don't get involved in anything. And you, do not get too close to the actors. Bend towards me. You are beautiful. - Do you remember? - Yes. Good. - Why are you pushing me? - Don't scratch me!

- Why is she pushing me? - You are pushing, too.

What an impressive orchestra!

They must be europeans!

No, they're russian musicians.

No, europeans!


They're russians, for god's sake!


I say it's good.

Very good!

I need to piss!

I can't hold it in anymore!

No, no, don't, don't...

ah! Yes, yes.

Sir, sir!

Don't yell!

- Where are you? - Here. It's only Catherine the great.

Follow me!

I love the th century. A time of genius and manners.

I would have to agree with you.

- Never contradict me. - Very well.

Where's the empress? Gone!

Russia is like a theatre. A theatre.


I think I know where we are.

How pretentious they are!

Don't lag behind, sir.

I'm not. I think we're speaking too loudly.

No matter. They're completely deaf.

I'm careful. I won't touch anyone.

Theatre... what actors! And those costumes!

Thank you, sirs. Thank you.

They can't see me.

This seems like the vatican. Is that where we are?

Those reliefs are painted, are they not?

What naturalism!

Weren't those decorations inspired by raphael's sketches?

Raphael, yes.

Better than the vatican. This is saint petersburg.

So they're copies?

Your authorities don't trust your own artists.

Russians are so talented at copying!


Because you don't have ideas of your own.

Your authorities don't want you to have them.

In fact, they are as lazy as all the rest of you.


There was a painting gallery here.

- On the upper floor. - With italian paintings.

- But not the best masters. - Not the best.

The Tsars were mainly russophiles.

But sometimes even they dreamed of italy.

Wasn't the hermitage created to satisfy those dreams?

- Raphael isn't for you. - Not for us.

- For italy. - Italy.

- It's warm there! - Warm.

What beauty!

The small italian gallery...

who are these people?

Of which milieu are they?

Do you see that vase?

Yes! Empire style is everywhere.

- And those voronikhine lamps. - Lamps...

empire, empire, empire!

I have no enthusiasm for it. That style is too silly.

Don't forget it was born under bonaparte.

Then it became fashionable here...

to the point of becoming the national style...

to the detriment of its originality.

We battled napoleon, not the empire style.

Who are they? Who are these people?

Petersburgers, of when the city was no longer a capital.

It's better that way. A capital city should be...

an ancient city like moscow. Not a chimera.

- Who are these people? - Should I introduce you?

- Only if it's not impolite. - No, they are friends.

Oleg konstantinovich, medical professor.

Lev Mikhailovich, actor.

Shouldn't they rise?

My european friend, he is visiting russia.

- My pleasure. - He's european.

Medicine is a fine profession.

I haven't spoken for years.

Aside from my new accomplice.

Such a long time... what is that odour?


A curious odour.

Have you been in Saint Petersburg long?

Yes, for one hour.

- And you came straight here? - I had my reasons.

You must love art!

Are you interested in beauty or just its representation?

No, marquis. We're here to rest.


How do you rest?

Today, we've come together.

It smells of formaldehyde.


Marquis, I'll show you a splendid painting.

These men are emitting a very strange odour.

Marquis, look at the birth of john the baptist.

The marquis smells of formaldehyde. Is he alive?

No, it's you.

I know this painting. I saw it on my last visit here.

It comes from paris, from the crozat collection.

Catherine II acquired it in .

One of the earliest pieces of the hermitage collection.

Such information is for specialists.

For us, detail is more interesting.

Look closely here.

A chicken and a cat are in the foreground.

They are symbolic figures.

The chicken represents greed, avarice...

the cat, cynicism and cruelty.

Cynicism and cruelty... the cat...

they are both calmed by the birth of john.

How interesting.

Why is he dressed like that?

Cleopatra, for example... what do you know of her?

Massimo stanzione...

cleopatra is on the same wall...

as the circumcision of christ by the pious lodovico cardi.

- What bothers you? - Bothers me?

Right next to saint cecilia? Can you imagine!

By carlo dolci!

And next to eastern still life!

- Why does that bother you? - Don't argue, oleg.

As a catholic, that shocks me.

What do you think of wagner?

Who is wagner?

Oleg, he doesn't know wagner!

Wagner is that child who behaved badly...

with my best friend, meyerbeer.

I have never listened to wagner.

- Broaden your horizons! - That doctor is so insistent!

- But I'm not sick! - We wish you much success.

Sir, why are they badly dressed?

My friends, how could I think...

that you would get along so badly?

I'll tell you one day. I'm in a strange situation.

Why quarrel with everyone?

If you do, we will never discover why we are here.

Such clothing kills a man's creative essence!

Why do you find it necessary to embrace european culture?

For what reason?

Why borrow also europe's mistakes?

My god! What is all this?



What an elevated approach to art!

What feel for the material!

How wonderful!

He is a true heir to the masters of antiquity!

Canova almost married my mother.

Was your mother a sculptress?

Yes. In rome.

In rome? Your mother, a sculptress...

in this canova collection, there are even sculptures...

that Tsar Alexander bought from the wife...

of napoleon?

Yes. It was I was at the Congress of Vienna.

What were you doing there?

- I was a diplomat. - A diplomat?

This collection was the object of a harsh dispute.

Look where we are now!

Is this a dream?

Maybe, maybe.

I don't know about you, but I'm wide awake!

It's amazing how well I speak russian!

Yes, quite well.

Who was that small man? Wasn't that pushkin?

- Good day. - Good day.

Is that your great poet? Your beloved one?

I read him in French. Nothing special.


My god, how touchy you are!

Pardon me!

I'm sorry if i've offended your nationalist sympathy.

What is that, nationalist sympathy?

What's that there?

- Please... - who is that?

Please don't rush.

All alone, without an escort?

It would be wiser not to talk to that lady.

Don't bother her.

Let's move along.

Excuse me, madam, have you lost your guide?

Thank you for your concern. I know everything here.

Of course. Do you work here?

Not at all. I'm here to admire the works of the old masters.

Would you accompany me into the next salon?

To see the flemish masters?

With pleasure. Your slender fingers see all.

- paces, straight ahead. - is that so?

How many are left?

Watch your step.

- One cannot be so intrusive, I told you. - It's not the right time for this.

It's all your fault.

- You are compromising me! - Oh, don't.

How dare you! Quiet!

- We're here. - Yes.

Can we go closer to that painting?

Would you like me to tell you about it?

The virgin with partridges by Van Dyck.

Catherine II acquired it.

Tell me about this painting.

Please, tell me.

See the calm and serenity around the Madonna and Joseph.

- Joseph, yes. - God protects them.

There is no doubt about his unseen presence.

The apple tree represents life. Sunflowers stand for piety.

On the upper right, partridges symbolise frivolity.

- They're flying away. - Partridges...

angels dance and play.

So many other symbols that we can only guess about.

Sir, leave her. She's an angel.

Why have you gone quiet?

The partridges, the children, the Madonna...

thank you, madam. Thank you.

I highly value your opinion on the works of Van Dyck.

You'll definitely be interested in another painting.

Be very careful!

A rubens.

Sir, do not disturb me!

The feast in the house of simon the pharisee.

The pharisee...

I don't see it.

Where is it?

Thirty-six, thirty-five...

no, that painting isn't here.

Not part of the Tsar's collection.

Yes, it's here.

That particular rubens is not here!

Yes, it was from Lord Walpole's collection...

like the virgin with partridges.

But that rubens isn't on exhibit.

But it's here.

- Where are you? - What a wonderful scent!

The scent of oils...

sir, let's leave here now.

No, let's stay a while.

What wonderful paintings!

What are those men counting?

You were right. I found it.

Let's take a closer look.

There it is.

We're almost there. Face the painting directly.

There it is.

Yes, there it is.

- Something to say about rubens? - Van dyck.

Rubens considered Van Dyck to be his best pupil.

You know, there was a time when all these paintings...

were placed much higher and much closer to one another.

The Tsar himself supervised how they were hung. Did you know this?

- Who are you? - I'm a sailor.

- Insignias. - Yes, the navy.

The Tsar visited his collection every morning.

He personally saved all this...

during the fire.

- Which fire? - In ...

so you are asking me?

Enough, let's go.

It's time for me to go.

May I accompany you?

What a pity.

I must ask you to leave.

The museum is closing.

Please see yourself to the exit.

Quiet. Close the door.

The museum is closing.

- How was my scene? - I wasn't impressed.

I was joking.


- do you hear music? - I hear something.

Russian music makes me break out in hives.

That has nothing to do with the music.

Why do you look at me like that?

- Rags... a dog... - rags... a dog...

- eternal people... - eternal people...

live and go on living.

- You'll outlive them all. - Eternal people...

what are you doing? Eavesdropping?

Are you interested in painting?

What nice little hands!

Stay away from me!

Amen. Amen.

- Beautiful, isn't it? - Absolutely.

- Are you catholic? - No, I'm not catholic.

Why do you ask?

It seemed to me that you were deep in thought...

while admiring the images of the founders of our church.

I don't know. I wasn't thinking about that.

You were not...

do you know that those are the apostles peter and paul?

Yes, that's what I heard.

That's what you heard. And so?

I looked at them because I like them.

You like them...

- one day, all men... - all men...

...will become like them. - Really?

How can you know what will become of people...

if you don't know the scriptures?

Why aren't you saying anything?

Look at their hands.

The hands are beautiful. And so?

How can you know what will become of people...

if you don't know the scriptures?

For you, they're just two dusty old men.

- Just flesh. - They're covered with dust...

from their long road to appear in this painting.

- What happened? - They are good and wise.

How can you know their character...

if you have not read the gospels?

How can you know all that?

Sir, why are you frightening him? He was already afraid.

He's not afraid. These people are never afraid.

Leave him alone.

Better to appreciate the scent of the paintings.

- It smells good. - Very good.

You need not fear.

So strange to hear those words.

Now I understand. We're in the gallery.


I understand.

We're in the Tsar's gallery...

near the portrait of a medieval fanatic.

Where have we wandered to?

That music was good, after all. Who was the composer?

- Glinka. - Who is he? A german?

A russian.

No, he's german. All composers are german.

All composers are german?

El greco.

Very nice.

Looks like a rembrandt.

El greco... dust from the roads.

What dust from the roads?

Nice, very nice.

- Something you don't like? - Not at all.

- It's nice, very nice. - Nice...

more flesh... very nice.

These are nice paintings.

Nice paintings...

they're getting better and better.

There's an angel.

Pardon me for addressing you without an introduction.

To whom was that directed?

Do tell.

- I'm speaking to the painting. - You are speaking to the painting?

How interesting!

- I must speak my mind. - Speak your mind?

And so you talk to the painting.

Would you like to try?

Must I try? Very well.

- Like that. - Like this?

Now, like this.

Now a turn.

Sometimes I prefer speaking to myself.

This painting and I...

we have a secret.


- Yes. - Now it's over.

That's all, gentlemen. Good-bye!

Where are you going, madam?

She's offended. She has left.



Farewell, gentleman!

How charming!

She's offended. But so charming!

Where has she gone?


a white stone...

very white.

Rather cold, isn't it?

When you first came here, it must have been disastrous.

That was just after the fire.

I have been here before, but it's as if I have not.

What luxury!

What is that?

It's under the convention that everything was devastated.

You don't know

 th-century russian history.

Our convention lasted years.

A real revolution... very sad.

What kind of system is there now? A republic?

I don't know.

I have never believed that a republic was suitable...

for a country as large as russia.

You europeans are democrats who mourn the monarchy.

- You are French, is that it? - Who are you?

Excuse us, we're lost.

- Please be on your way. - Let us live! Let us live!

- Remaining here is forbidden! - Help us, please.

Who forbids it? What is forbidden?

What language! Everything is forbidden!

It's better not to argue.

We're going, we're going.

I know where we can hide.

I suddenly feel afraid. I don't like military uniforms.

- Not that door, sir! - But I like it.

- Such a beautiful door! - No, not that one!

Why is it so cold?

I told you not to enter.

What cold! Frames... but where are...

where are the canvases?

Let's go back, I beg you.

- Who's there? - It's me.

- Why have you come here? - I don't know. I simply entered.

- Come closer. - I'm coming.

Maybe you need help, kind sir.

Who is the "kind sir"?

Me... you...

not here, not there.

There is no one.

Only coffins and corpses. Come and see.

- I'm coming. - That's my coffin.

- Your coffin? - Yes, I made it myself.

Why that strange tone, kind sir?

Why coffins in the hermitage?

"Kind sir"!

- It's my coffin. - Yes, it is yours.

- He looks well-fed! - But where are the corpses?

Why do you ask "where"? Don't step on the corpses.

He looks well-fed! You stepped on the corpses!

- What happened? - The war.

Which war? Against whom?

- Against germany. - What is germany?

The unified state of the germans.

In the th century, russia was at war with germany.

The germans surrounded the city.

But the city did not surrender.

More than million dead.

- More than million? - Yes.

That's a high price to pay. Very high.

Saint petersburg and the hermitage paid dearly.

In russia, it is said that freedom knows no price.

A very high price.

But maybe not.

But it has already been paid.

I was wrong, by the way...

when I criticised your Tsars...

for all this beauty and opulence.

Even if they all were...


Quieter, please.

But it is beautiful, isn't it?

What do you see? Who is it?

Maybe Catherine II, but I'm not certain.

Nothing could be less certain.

That's enough! Lisa, take away the children.

Don't go too near to her.

If it is Catherine, she has a sixth sense...

like this.

Lower, lower!

That will be all.

The candles, the candles.

It's stuffy in here.

- There. - No, I won't let you.

That's it.

But it's cold outside.

That's it.


Where are you?

I hear your footsteps. Where are you?

Mortals must not chase royalty.

You won't catch up anyway.

I hear your footsteps.

I hear them.

Sir, what are you doing? It's cold!

- Come this way. - Yes, it's cold.

- She disappeared. - I know.

- She disappeared again. - Move aside.

- Do you know where to go? - Help us. Come.

Let us through. We are allowed.

Where is the door? Where is it?


Don't be shy. Come. We will not stay long.

Thank you very much. A new hairstyle is necessary.

What beautiful hair you have! Those curls!

Tea! Would you like tea?

I don't either, but they insist. Where is the tea?

We're in a hurry. Where is it?

- I know I'm beautiful. - Too beautiful.

What do you want me to say?

- Come on! - I have nothing to say!

What is that?

- Did you write this book? - Not me. He did.

Neither he nor I. But he will dedicate it.

Follow me.

Sir, what are you looking at? Shall we continue?

What do I see? Nothing for the moment.

Some people are obviously waiting for something.

Let's proceed with caution. These madmen could eat you.

They liked your hair.

Of course, good writers always have beautiful hair.

- Be more careful and quiet now. - I'm following you.

- Close the door quickly. - It's done.

When I was last received here at the winter palace...

it was being renovated after the terrible fire.

- The parquet doesn't creak. - It doesn't creak...

- the ambassador of persia! - Excuse us for being late.

Sir, let's go.

The ambassador of His Highness the Shah...

prince Khozrev-Mirza...

the son of the future shah, with his entourage.

- Do you know what is happening? - Not yet.

We are witnesses.

Nicholas I received an apology from the persian emissaries...

regarding the murder of russian diplomats.

Griboedov was one, I think.

How interesting.

Are you able to see?

What uniforms!

Luxury, empire...


look over there. Higher.

Can you see?

Yes, I see now!

One must not trust this world. You are right.

Beware, court officials are cunning.

Some of them are mediums.

They could sense your presence.

Thank you for your advice. We gemini are curious by nature.

I'll move ahead. Maybe I'll meet old acquaintances.

Good luck. I'll find you later.

Mighty sovereign emperor!

The peaceful nature of persia and the sacred union that exists...

among his majesty and the shah were both upset by evil.

Under its power, a frenzied tehran crowd...

committed unheard-of acts of evil.

The resulting victim was the russian mission.

The honest heart of Fetkh-Ali-Shah...

was horrified by the idea that a handful of wrongdoers...

might destroy our peace and union.

His majesty the shah has sent me, his grandson...

to request that you, sovereign...

erase from memory this event.

Let the world know that, despite this terrible event...

two wise monarchs, with their infinite wisdom...

speak openly and vanquish all suspicion.

With the greatest joy, I stand before you...

your imperial majesty.

I carry out my grandfather's will...

that we strengthen peace...

between our two peoples.

His imperial majesty...

commands me to assure your excellence...

of his pleasure at hearing your explanation...

as well as the righteous plea...

of your sovereign.

I've been observing you. Who let you enter?

- You have no business here. - That's correct.

Then you must leave at once.

Off you go, sir! Away!

- I had no intention of staying. - Away!

This ceremony will continue for a few more hours still.

As a former diplomat, I'm aware of that.

A terrible boredom will set in. Terrible!

Leave me alone!

- And what is that? - What did you say?

I adore luxury and regal splendour.

Stasov wasn't a bad architect.

He loved discipline, but left space for breathing.

We cannot stay here.

The ceremony will finish. Then they will all come in.

My god!

Sevres porcelain, my weakness!

- Beautiful. - Yes, yes!

- Inimitable! - Beautiful.

This is the cameo service?

Yes, it is.

Not so close, please.

What gold!

Sir, it's awkward setting the table with you here.

You can admire it later when you are seated. Please do go away.

What pure tones!

The blue and gold are enchanting.

And the wine-sediment colour!

Always such marvellous cooks here in the winter palace.

Do you recall the taste of food?

No, I have forgotten.

You've forgotten...

visit the other salons while waiting for the dinner bell.

- That blue! - Please, sir.

There's dancing. Come on.

Let's leave here.

- We're being chased away. - Chased away...

it's so dark here.


I see you have never seen a Tsar...

nor grand princes in all their magnificence.

- Monarchy is not eternal. - As if I didn't know...

don't I have the right to dream a little?

We are free, you and I. Dream away.

There's someone here. Do you hear voices?

Sir, don't you hear them?

No, I don't hear anything.

Look, someone is moving there.


Mr. Orbeli, I don't understand. What has upset you so?

You and my father know: No insect can harm this throne.

- It's made of silver and treated oak. - It's not the throne.

I'm very worried.

See that velour from lyons. It's completely worn out.

- We'll restore it. Be patient. - You don't have the time.

You're right, Boris. We don't have time either.

You won't ever see him again.


He's your son.

What difficulty are they having? They seem uncomfortable with each other.

What do you expect?

You descend from the heavens...

and no longer know how to behave.

Your son is hermitage director.

Like you and I before him.

The wars ahead... terrible wars.

But we managed to preserve all this through the catastrophes.

I can't hear anymore.

And you?

Yes, I hear. But not very clearly.

What are they saying?

The elder piotrovsky is asking...

whether the director's telephone is still under surveillance.

His son tells him, "forget that.

"I would prefer telling you about the hermitage cats.

"They are still here..."

there are so many people that I wasn't able to help.

Ten years have passed. You know what I'm referring to.

But everyone speaks well of you.

Your books are still in print. Those of mr. Orbeli, too.

That's particularly admirable.

The dead weep with joy when their books are reprinted.

Especially years later, Mikhail.

Is something still troubling you?

Is it the authorities?

They want acorns from oak trees.

They are not interested in knowing how to nurture the tree of culture.

But it will be their doom if the tree falls.

Then there will be nothing left. Can't they understand that?

Mr. Orbeli, what awaits us?

- I'm coming! - Speak!

- Listen, Mikhail... - let him go.

You're completely alone.

They won't tell him anything. I know, ask me!

I am asking you...

everyone can see the future...

but no one remembers the past.

Look how handsome they are! Such fine young men!

Beautiful uniforms, even if I don't like the military.

You didn't answer my question.

Nothing, you know nothing.

Sir! Wait!

He doesn't hear me.

I must apologise.

They said other things.

I could hardly hear them.

I made it all up, about orbeli... about piotrovsky, too.

- Only god can judge you. - I made it all up.

We are free, you and I. You said it yourself!

Please, don't run.

Run! I can't keep up with you.

Little birds.


Anastasia, where are you going?

They are...

so light!

You're always watching me.

I have a bad feeling.

Don't be alarmed.

Pray. And I shall pray for you.

Did you hear that?

- Did you hear shots? - Calm down. God is with you.

I think someone is following us.

Calm down, alexandra.

If only alexis could run...

doctors are good for nothing. There is no hope.

It's my fault.


Children, behave yourselves!

Sorry, excuse us.

Come here, Anastasia. Where were you?

I looked for you all morning.

We were playing.

Let's go.

Where is alexis?

- Thank you, I can manage. - Of course.

- Are you in pain? - I'm fine, mother.

Move your chair forward.

You are late for tea.

Forgive me.

What do you think? Shall we forgive her?

Anastasia won't do it again.

It looks like it's not your fault.


Fly away, my little angels!

And here's their cage.

They're all here, of course.

There haven't been so many guests for a long time.

Good evening.

Look at that strange fellow.


where has my european gone?

Where is he?

There he is!

He doesn't see me.

I should go up to him.

Otherwise he will be offended.

Sir! He can't hear me.

But I'll see him later.

Wouldn't it be nice to jump about like that?

You know...

aristarkh konstantinovich is being sent to africa.

What a tiger! He could eat anyone!

Your mother has trained the servants well.

Don't be shy! You are doing very well. The most important for the mazurka is...

you are doing great.

Thank you.

Saint petersburg has the best balls in europe.

Everyone is so easygoing. Like one big family.

There must be over people.

Maybe less.

I've forgotten everything!

I dance so poorly! I've forgotten everything!

But it's all coming back to me!

Good, very good!

Bravo! More! More!

Where were you? I lost you.

I'm here.

I lost you.


I'm sad.

Let's go.

To where?

Where? Forward.


what will we find over there?

Over there? I don't know.

I'm staying.

Farewell, europe.

It's over.

You might say I grew up here.

But I'm not quite myself.

It's as if I were in someone else's house.

Listen up! Look here!

Poor man, your lady has gone away!

- Flown away like a bird! - Gone...

in a flash!

Shall we dine together?

I'll wait downstairs. Bring up the coach.

Have our coats brought up. And don't lose them!

When we return to kursk, we must organise a ball.

Just before lent, for example.

I think we should invite your nephew as well as varenka. Let him see.


It feels like we're floating.

It seems all this is but a dream.

But you have found her! Nothing has happened!


Let me pass!

Sir, sir...

it's a pity you're not here with me.

You would understand everything.


The sea is all around.

We are destined to sail forever.

To live forever.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Russian Ark" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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