It should have been a good movie – who doesn’t like a sweeping epic that forges in a crucible of technical constraints the consciousness of a nation? Certainly I do. Yet. Watching Russian Ark I was reminded of nothing more pleasant than wandering through an unfamiliar museum with a colossal bore, who will keep pointing out the ferbelows when all one wants to see are the tchotchkes. Worse still, a boor whose sense of reality and of the comparative importance of details are sorely misguided: as though Pushkin were merely a set of womanizing sideburns; as though the 1890s were clad in polyester; as though all hairpieces were of necessity plasticine. One is meant to be moved – and one is: to annoyance. It was like one of the set pieces one finds left over in provincial soviet museums: taxidermy, not history, let alone culture.1
- In short, I was disappointed.