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The Imperial TraceRecent Russian Cinema$
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Nancy Condee

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195366761

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195366761.001.0001

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Aleksandr Sokurov: Shuffling Off the Imperial Coil

Aleksandr Sokurov: Shuffling Off the Imperial Coil

(p.159) 6 Aleksandr Sokurov: Shuffling Off the Imperial Coil
The Imperial Trace

Condee Nancy

Oxford University Press

Sokurov’s cinematic “ark,” to cite his best-known work, is hardly an inclusive, biblical congeries of all earthly animals. It is a gathering of elite gentility adrift in a catastrophe largely of its own making, dancing to the exquisite music of its isolated culture, oblivious to the impending historical “accident.” Here, for Sokurov, the imperial imagination is a robust, sense-making instrument. And while Russian Ark is neither typical nor representative, such distant films as Days of the Eclipse or Second Circle nevertheless reveal contrastive features of a shared, imaginative topography. It is not in a literal sense that Turkmenistan (Days of the Eclipse), the frozen north (Second Circle) or the Tajik border (Spiritual Voices) belong to the same cinematic empire. Indeed, the African colonialist footage (Mournful Indifference), the Nazi mountain-retreat (Moloch) and Japanese palace (Sun), or Sokurov’s Anglophile, seafaring preoccupations (Confession) are hardly the historical residue of Russia’s overland imperium, but function as loan-fantasies, something beyond, as Said has suggested, “mere” positive knowledge. Tropes speculatively associated with empire’s legacy, like an elite, insular center and distant periphery and a preference for grand, oracular eschatology, provide productive environments for inquiry.

Keywords:   Aleksandr Sokurov, Russian Ark, empire, metropolitan culture, postcolonial theory, auteur, art film

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