Russian Ark: Novel Approach to Royal Treasures

Russian Ark

Russian Ark (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

Russian Ark is a smart surreal Russian parallel cinema movie directed artistically by Alexander Sokurov.

The flick begin with a man awakening to snowfall and being unaware where he is, and unsure why no one can see him {Is he a ghost? Or just invisible? }. He also can’t figure out why an aristocratic Frenchman is able to converse fluently with him despite claiming to be not well-versed with Russian.

Together the Frenchman and the Russian {the first-person narrator} try to figure out: where they are, the era in which they are, and why some people can see them and others can’t. They admire the royal costumes, the opulent palatial settings of the building they are in, the sculptures, the paintings, the lay of a huge banquet. They observe actors, visitors, curators, and royal dignitaries around them{and even some beautiful women who might actually be angels}. The Frenchman scares some people, bothers several court staff and soldiers, and together with the narrator goes on a time-hopping journey as they discuss intricacies of art, culture and Russian history.


russian_ark (Photo credit: 沐小川)

Rating: 10/10 for novelty. I loved how the entire 1.5 hours of film is captured in an unbroken single-shot via videocam, and how the story keeps surging forward. The print, costumes, decor, direction and action were marvellous. Great if you like experimental cinema and are interested in Russian history, art and culture. Also a great movie to disabuse anyone of the notion that offbeat equals boring.


Reclaim Your Brain/ TV Lies (Free Rainer)

This subtitled movie explores the issue of the onslaught of mindless programs on TV.

Rainer Kaethner is a jerk — guzzling alcohol (even while driving) and snorting narcotics(even at work).  He manages  a TV station under Channel TTS, which hosts reality TV shows, including one in which the sperm of young men compete to mate with the egg of a young woman!

He meets an anguished young woman who confirms his identity as the person doing ‘Report 24’ and is set to stab him. But she hesitates, perhaps  because he is not alone.  Soon after this incident, Rainer accepts an award for ‘Report 24’ and is returning home after dosing on drugs when the mysterious woman smashes her van into his car.  While being resuscitated he has a near-death experience, you know, an epiphany of sorts and imagines that his vital life is in hands of non-real doctors, whose actions are being voted on by a live audience.

While recovering, he visits the young woman and tells her that she couldn’t possibly hate him more than he hates himself. This appears to soften her hatred of him and she visits his room. But finding him asleep, she surreptitiously leaves the hospital . When he later visits her room, there is another patient in her place. But he finds a newspaper clipping about her elderly relative, a swimming coach, who committed suicide after a Report 24’s damaging coverage.

Rainer tries to turn over a new leaf and present genuine reportage, but is blocked by the Channel TTS, which uses the rating system to decide which TV shows get slotted. Rainer is of the opinion that the rating system is flawed. He feels that the small number of viewers who give the rating are given a choice of a large amount of trash which feeds an addiction, and this perpetuates the problem of crappy TV shows. He likens the TV channel’s strategy to feeding sweets to children all day long.

In order to give intellectual TV shows an opportunity to compete, Rainer decides to study and manipulate the rating system with the help of the mysterious woman, Pegah, who had tried to kill him. The rest of the movie is based on the attempts of Rainer, Pegah, and a team of idealists/ revolutionaries / hackers / saboteurs to create a TV revolution.

The ending is quite idealistic and shows Rainer, Pegah and the team as having been successful. The TV viewing population has become deaddicted to rubbish on TV, and generally to TV itself.