OVID.tv Presents THE HERMITAGE DWELLERS Review – Portrait of A Home

Editor’s Note: Find more OVID.tv film reviews here.


OVID.tv Film About The Hermitage Conveys that to its Staff it is More Than a Gallery

Curator Aleksandra Kostsova with an icon she brought to the Hermitage. She says, “The Hermitage is a treasure you can’t live without, once you have worked here.”

It’s our palace. Our museum. The place where it’s possible to breathe freely. Because there is culture. There is kindness. It’s no place for killings, for hatred and malice.

A curator shows us the objects she has cared for in her 42 years working at the museum, expertly identifying and tenderly dusting them. She knows them so intimately, she calls them hers and says her house is only where she sleeps, the museum is her home.


The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is a haven of art and culture for its visitors, but it is an irreplaceable home for its staff. From this film we learn that many of them lived through the brutalities and hardships of the second world war, and this documentary explores how the museum became an escape from their past, and how working there healed their “wounds of war.” At the same time that school children tour the galleries, awed by a peacock clock that mechanically unfurls its hundred golden feathers, one employee grieves the loss of her family during the siege of Leningrad, when she herself was a child living next door to the museum.

The Hermitage Dwellers paints a portrait of employees who dedicate their life to the museum. Above, Valentina Barbashova, a gallery attendant.
Olga Bogdanova, the head of museum maintenance, has made the Hermitage her home.

A Portrait of A Home

In this way, the film paints a portrait, as vivid as any of the Rembrandts on view, of five employees who dedicate their life to this work and find their solace through it. In watching the young men lift colossal royal portraits on their backs and move them between galleries, or in listening to the 82 year old icons curator refuse to think about retirement, you too might be moved to reconsider what a museum can mean to someone, and what purpose it really serves.

A quiet, thoughtful and tender documentary, The Hermitage Dwellers is a great watch for those interested in how art museums work or their role in daily life. It also has a lot to offer for those interested in Russian history, from Catherine the Great to the Socialist revolution to WWII. Be aware that the film has subtitles, as well as many silent shots of the galleries and paintings, but at just over an hour long, it is a worthwhile investment to meet the Hermitage dwellers.


Director: Aliona van der Horst

To view the film, visit OVID.tv page for The Hermitage Dwellers

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Images courtesy of OVID.tv

Gisela Levy

About the Author:

Gisela Levy (she/her/hers) is a Senior at Columbia University majoring in East Asian Studies and International Affairs. She has worked or volunteered at museums in Washington, D.C. and New York, and hopes to work at more. Having lived in Brazil, Bethesda, and Beijing, she enjoys making art about cultural collisions.

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