“What appealed to me on a purely human level, was that this director respected everyone equally, regardless of their rank, status or role in the process.”
Cinematographer Tilman Büttner
(On Russian Ark director Alexander Sokurov)
It’s been done before. And not just as an exploitive low-budget horror film following the trap-a-group-of-friends-in-a-house model. Roger Ebert said Russian Ark was, “one of the best-sustained ideas I have ever seen on the screen.”
Back in 2002, I was in Chicago on a production and got to see Russian Ark when it was first released. It was playing at the Music Box Theater (built in 1929) which made it all the more special.
It was shot at the Heritage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia by cinematographer Tilman Büttner in one 90 minute take using a Sony 900 on a Steadicam and an external hard drive.
It was directed by Alexander Sokurov who reportedly had a total cast and crew of 4,500 people to pull off the amazing feat. So there was a lot of behind the scene work to pull off the one day shoot. But if ever there was a true “director’s cut” it Russian Ark.
Hitchcock did a similar idea on Rope (1948) but was limited to ten minute takes due to the limitations of shooting on film. He was inventive to attempt to hide the edits. And if Russian Ark was shot today they would easily be able to seamlessly digital stitch scenes together (which is what they did on Birdman).
Granted you may not have a place as grand as the Heritage to shoot in—or 4,500 people helping you—but you can make a feature film in a day. But to what you can, with what you have, wherever you are. You know, be creative.
Let me know if you pull that off.
And for a little extra inspiration here’s the entire documentary In One Breath about the making of Russian Ark.