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Mon Paradis - Der Winterpalast (Mon Paradis - Der Winterpalast (Der Sommer der Valentina))

Mon Paradis - Der Winterpalast
Adam Uljanov

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 04/2002

It’s just a coincidence that Berlin-based production house Egoli Tossell Film was in St. Petersburg on two occasions last year for a film shoot: once for camerawoman/director Elfi Mikesch’s documentary Mon Paradis - Der Winterpalast and then again for Alexander Sokurov’s Cannes competition entry Russian Ark.

In fact, the two films will be presented at the end of next year along with documentary impressions of St. Petersburg by Frank Mueller as part of a thematic evening on the Russian city and the Hermitage Museum commissioned by the European cultural channel ARTE.

During preparations for this thematic evening, Egoli Tossell Film in-house producer Karsten Stoeter learned that Mikesch was planning a documentary about the babushkas in the Hermitage who supplement their meager pensions by keeping a beady eye on the paintings and the museum visitors.

Mikesch had already been to St. Petersburg to find the right people for her portrait, but Egoli Tossell could facilitate access to the Hermitage thanks to its contact with the local production company Hermitage Bridge Studio.

“It was Elfi’s idea to concentrate on these old people who come from poor circumstances, but yet feel very important looking after the paintings in the Hermitage,” Stoeter explains, “and it is also a film about the way art is perceived.”

The film centers on five individuals who are connected, according to Mikesch, by “a mysterious, almost ‘family’ relationship to the Hermitage, the palace, the heart of St. Petersburg.”

There’s Adam Uljanov, a master in the art of living, who loves Shakespeare, old gramophone players and the Hermitage. Then we have Juna Sek, the passionate guardian of the museum’s bronze treasures, and Aleftina Kashtanova, the director of the Hermitage’s sixth sector. And finally there are Yuri Shuisky and his son Ilya who wander through the palace’s chambers as if in a daydream.

Internationally known for her work as a camerawoman on films by Rosa von Praunheim, Werner Schroeter, and Monika Treut, Mikesch’s credits as a director include Mind The Gap (Verrueckt bleiben, verliebt bleiben, 1996) and The Markus Family (Die Markusfamilie, 2000).
Genre Art
Category Documentary
Year of Production 2001
Director Elfi Mikesch
Screenplay Elfi Mikesch
Cinematography Elfi Mikesch
Heide Breitel
Brian Eno, Gerhan Popov, Karawane
Producers Jens Meurer, Karsten Stöter
Production Company Egoli Tossell Film/Berlin
Format color
Shooting Dates St. Petersburg, May 2001