Apple Tours Russia's Hermitage in a 5-Hour, Single-Take iPhone Film

Axinya Gog and TBWA\MAL concoct an odyssey

Apple has raised the bar of ambition to absurd heights with its new "Shot on iPhone" film, in which Russian director Axinya Gog takes viewers on a five-hour-and-19-minute, single-shot journey through the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg—showing scores of galleries and famous artwork, as well as dance and musical performances, and ending with a 30-minute finale from pianist and composer Kirill Richter.

And the iPhone still had 19 percent battery charge at the end of it all.

Here's the trailer for the project:

Hermitage 5hrs 19min 28sec in one continuous take - Official Trailer | Shot on iPhone 11 Pro

And below is the full film, which lasts precisely five hours, 19 minutes and 28 seconds. It visits 588 masterpieces in 45 galleries, and was shot in 4K on iPhone 11 Pro. 

The director, Axinya Gog, is just 29 years old and a rising star in the Russian film world. She has a background in set design and grew up around museums—her mother worked as an art historian and curator at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Conceptually, it's pretty fascinating—Russia has a "tester" culture, where it made sense to test the limits of the iPhone 11 Pro—and while the film must surely drag in parts, it has an artfulness that mirrors that of its subject. Part of this is down to the dance and musical performances, which add plenty of life to the quiet proceedings. But the film also features a handful of other characters—museum visitors and a painter are encountered in the otherwise empty halls—whose theatricality warms up the impressive though somewhat cold technical achievement of the shoot.

Adweek has more on the logistics of the project, executed with TBWA\Media Arts Lab in London, revealing it happened between closing time on a Sunday and opening time on a Tuesday (the museum is closed on Mondays) and the crew had just a six-hour window to pull off the stunt.

UPDATE: A lot of people have noted similiarites to Russian Ark, a 2002 experimental film by Alexander Sokurov, which was also shot in a single take in the Hermitage in 2001 (though, at 96 minutes, was significantly shorter).

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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