Hermitage Revealed ***Dir: Margy Kinmonth. With the voices of: Margy Kinmonth, Tom Conti. 83 mins. Cert: U.
Where Sokurov’s Russian Ark gave us the grand tour of St. Petersburg’s deathless palace of art, this is rather more prosaic and school-trippy: a superbly illustrated if slightly dutiful history that picks up the official guidebook and leads us from the building’s inception under Catherine the Great to its latter-day rebranding as a highbrow tourist hub. Writer-director Margy Kinmonth hits paydirt whenever she parts the crowds and simply allows us to gaze upon a Rembrandt, Titian or Kandinsky, preserved here with crisp digital exactitude. Elsewhere, the interviews and insights exist on the level of public-access TV, and there’s something a little meek in the way Kinmonth keeps glimpsing a shadow history of Russian nationalism without ever quite stopping to address it. As her genial host, Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky, lets slip in a joshing aside on his management style: “It’s very totalitarian – but that’s how it’s always been, and how it always should be.”
Hermitage Revealed screens in selected cinemas this Tuesday.