The stars of an endless night bathe a Russian navy battleship cruising the icy waters of the Barents Sea in a spectral haze. Through the prism of its crew of conscripts, their chores, their watches and conversations, the ship's commander immerses himself in a reflection deepened by loneliness. In a long night time journey punctuated by ghostly apparitions, Alexander Sokurov paints a moving human epic revealing the outlines of Russia's historical destiny.
Choose that quiet evening when you are bound to be on your own, and watch this film. Give up any ideas of narrative, conventional action or characters, clever, quick timing or editing, and give yourself up to a slow, flowing, obsessive and obsessing work that is documentary and philosophical reverie, hellish and humane, universal and meticulously detailed, homo-erotic and coldly detatched. If there is a weakness it is maybe the captain and his thoughts. Although this is ostensibly the binding element to the film, and its point, it seems, sometimes, unnecessary. The sheer beauty and relentless passing-of-time of this film are enough to lock any viewer in its method and world without comment. The pointlessly ordered business of the recruits on board and the awful natural bleakness and even active menace of their surroundings are documented in a calm and unsentimental progress. And this, what you look at rather than are told in the captain's commentary, is the real wonder of this film. The most powerful non-Hollywood experience you could wish for.