Universal acclaim - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 32
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 32
  3. Negative: 1 out of 32
  1. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Sep 3, 2013
    The best style has a purpose to it, and Russian Ark, in its hypnotic, endless swirl, gets at a deep truth of the post-Soviet psyche, haunted by its legacy of czarist rule and Stalin-era sacrifice. The film is a sad home for ghosts.
  2. 100
    The film is a glorious experience to witness, not least because, knowing the technique and understanding how much depends on every moment, we almost hold our breath.
  3. Extraordinary film, one that, like the museum itself, captures and shows three centuries of Russian culture and history in all its beauty, confusion, terror and majesty.
  4. Well worth seeing on the wide screen before its video release next year. It's guaranteed to take your breath away.
  5. 100
    The result is a magnificent feast for the eyes and brain.
  6. Reviewed by: Kenneth Baker
    Marks a cinematic milestone.
  7. 100
    Who most of these exquisitely costumed people are I have no idea, but they brush past the camera in such rapids of jubilation it's a wonder they don't knock the thing over. I watched most of the film exhilarated, but depressed that I'm not a big Russophile.
  8. 100
    Audacious, gorgeous and unique.
  9. Reviewed by: Henry Sheehan
    High art, low comedy, hard labor and royal prerogative are here thrown together in an elegant unity, a breathtaking demonstration of Russian cinematic -- hence artistic -- brilliance.
  10. Turns out to be more than simply a near-miracle of filmmaking, however; it is also an astonishing work of art, a historical epic that drifts through one's consciousness like a reverie.
  11. 100
    An astonishing technological feat, but what is even more remarkable is that the technology does not overwhelm the artistry.
  12. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    A coda that will have the movie's audience gasping in exhilarated exhaustion, whispering astonished gratitude to Sokurov for having created vigorous art out of 21st century video technique and asking themselves, "What's the Russian word for Wow!?"
  13. 100
    Dramatically, this is something of a waking dream.
  14. That rare thing at the movies these days: a new experience. It awes us with its technological feat, it sweeps us up in its mystical spell and, with its final scene -- it takes us to an emotional climax of almost unbearable poignancy.
  15. A magnificent conjuring act, an eerie historical mirage.
  16. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    Seems destined to go down in film history as a technical tour de force.
  17. 90
    By the time of the closing shot -- twists of fog rising like spectres from a leaden sea -- even the most stubborn viewer will be lying back in a state of happy hypnosis. [16 December 2002, p. 106]
  18. 88
    Even in its most tedious scenes, Russian Ark is mesmerizing.
  19. It was only with the advent of digital technology that the notion of an entire film done in a single take became possible. Mike Figgis got there first with ''Time Code,'' and now the Russian director Alexander Sokurov has brought off a comparably startling feat with Russian Ark.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 54 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 34
  2. Negative: 8 out of 34
  1. Aug 27, 2010
    "Is this a dream?"
    "Maybe, maybe. But I'm wide awake."

    Director Aleksandr Sokurov takes the idea of admiring St. Petersburg's Hermitage
    through the eye of a camera, and creates a vast, sprawling dream sequence that feels just like dipping your brain in a vat of icy-hot. As the camera drifts through corridor after corridor, the setting constantly shifts - in one room you will encounter the director's friends admiring a painting, while in the next room Catherine II is teaching children how to properly curtsy (not to mention a carpenter in a closet making coffins for WWII cavalry). At the helm of this mad tour is the strange guide, who appears out of thin air and constantly judges every detail, from the art to the museum guests. It's hard to know for sure whether he is a figment of our imagination, a phantom, or, as the narrator suggests, a symbol for Europe's constant patronization for Russian art and culture; whatever he represents, Sergei Donstov gives an eccentric performance well worth remembering. However, if classical art isn't your thing, and you won't be won over by decadence or ethereal camerawork, 'Russian Ark' probably doesn't have much to offer you. But then my question is why are you watching movies? Full Review »
  2. GilbertGilbertovitchMulroneycakeski
    Apr 11, 2003
    Phil Hall, Chad S., Yakov C, Keri No-Last-Initial: you are being so utterly, heartlessly, breathtakingly CRUEL you belong in a David Lynch movie. Russian Ark, it's true, it isn't going to be everyone's cup of char. Unless you know (intimately) andor love Russian history, it's going to be dull as ditchwater. Obviously. It's hardly a criticism, more an unfortunate fact of life. But think about that for a second. Its only problem is: it will bore you if you aren't interested. No sh*t, Sherlock. F'crying out loud, it's a ONE TAKE FEATURE FILM! A 96-MINUTE TRACKING SHOT! SO WHAT IF THE SUBJECT MATTER'S VERY VERY NICHE? WHO THE HELL CARES? SOKUROV HAS MADE A FEATURE FILM! IN! ONE! TAKE! THAT'S ABSOLUTELY ASTONISHING! GIVE HIM SOME DAMN CREDIT! (inhales) Right. Sorry. But seriously, either give Sokurov credit for one of the most amazing techincal and personal achivements in cinema history, or go back to torturing small animals. With pliers. And margarine. You cruel, evil bastards. Full Review »
  3. Sep 24, 2014
    From a technique of filming rarely seen on screen to the brilliant idea of wandering in history of a country, in this case Russia. This film is an achievement that should be more recognized. Wonderful acting by a lead character, who is a wandering ghost, who is at the end of the film so overwhelmed by everything that he refuses to leave with the narrator, who is also a ghost. Even with all the mistakes made in the film, it's a marvelous experience. A very, very beautiful movie with one of the best endings ever in film history. There is just something about leaving the Hermitage with the crowd and then fading back to the sea, to continue sailing forever. Full Review »