I have always been fascinated with the way cultures and countries view one another. It is quite interesting and enlightening to learn and hear about a culture from a foreign standpoint, and then enter that culture and experience it for myself. Sadly, I haven’t been able to do that as often as I would like, but the opportunities that I have had have been nothing but amazing.
Alexander Sokurov’s one shot wonder ‘Russian Ark‘ sparked again the question of how we view our global neighbors, as well as our own country, people and culture. The film does this by taking us on a tour through the Russian State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersberg and through 300 years of Russian history. Intense? Maybe not for everyone. Yet this 96 minute, single take experience touches on some good topics, one being the relationship between Europe and Russia and the opinions held by both cultures to the other.
We have the Stranger (Sergei Dreiden), a European, moving through the rooms of the museum and making comments on Russian art, architecture, fashion and so on, while our unseen, Russian narrator or Time Traveller responds to or sometimes explains some of those things to the Stranger, but we wonder if the Stranger is listening.
Sokurov also stresses the importance of culture and history and the need to preserve it. The weaving in and out of Russian history and seeing many of the landmark figures of those times emphasizes the need for us to hold onto those times now past. When looking at an ever-changing world, it becomes apparent just how difficult a task it sometimes is to hold onto something like a way of life. If we don’t watch carefully, it may slip away from us.
I like seeing people wanting to hold onto and preserve those things which make a people great, as well as dispel or confirm perceptions of one country to another. I like being reminded of those things, for it helps keep my own focus on the things that matter most, as well as keep me looking for those praiseworthy elements found within all the cultures of the world.