When I read yesterday (news excerpt below after movie review) that DNA has proven that all of the Russian czar's children were indeed killed with the family in 1917, I yearned to see one of my favorite movies, the amazing Russian Ark. This time in history fascinates me. No wonder, then, that another favorite movie of mine is Reds. And, of course, the original Doctor Zhivago.
Russian Ark is a magnificent conjuring act, an eerie historical mirage evoked in a single sweeping wave of the hand by Alexander Sokurov. The 96-minute film, shot in high-definition video in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg, consists of one continuous, uninterrupted take. Thanks to recent technological innovation, it is the longest unbroken shot in the history of film. As the Steadicam operated by Tilman Büttner (the German cinematographer of ''Run Lola Run'') floats through the museum's galleries and rooms, a cast of 2,000 actors and extras act out random, whimsical moments of Russian imperial history that dissolve into one other like chapters of a dream.
Mr. Sokurov, who has always been drawn to historical subjects, has said that he wanted to capture ''the flow of time'' in a pure cinematic language that suggests ''a single breath.'' And that's what ''Russian Ark'' accomplishes as it drops in on Russian monarchs from Peter the Great to Nicholas II and catches them living their lives unaware that they're being observed. These keyhole flashes from the past evoke a sense of history that is at once intimate and distanced, and ultimately sad: so much life, so much beauty, swallowed in the mists of time.
''Russian Ark'' is a ghost story set in the Hermitage, the museum that is the pride of St. Petersburg and the repository -- the ark, if you will -- of more Russian history and culture than any other place. Among its components are the Winter Palace (the former residence of the Russian czars) and sections devoted to Russian history and to the life and work of Alexander Pushkin. It also houses more than three million artifacts, including world-class collections of painting, sculptures, prints, drawings and archaeological finds.
-Stephen Holden, NY Times, full review here
DNA proves Bolsheviks killed all of Russian czar's children:
(CNN) -- One of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century has been put to rest: DNA analysis of bone fragments has proven that two of Czar Nicholas' children believed to have escaped were killed with their royal family during the Russian Revolution.
- On December 30, 1916, The Tsar was warned that his army would not support him against a revolution.
- On July 17, 1918, Nicholas II of Russia and his family were killed.
The Ballad of the Children of the Czar
art: Child Playing with the Ball (Corner of the Park), by Felix Vallotton