Andrei Tarkovsky

Biography

His work is characterized by spirituality and metaphysical themes, long takes, lack of conventional dramatic structure, and distinctively authored use of cinematography.

“He is widely regarded as one of the greatest film-makers of all time”. Ingmar Bergman said of Tarkovsky

Born appropriately enough the son of a poet and an actress in Belarus, Tarkovsky became the most important Soviet director of modern times, and a case could be made that he may even have eclipsed Eisenstein as their most significant cinematic artist. His remarkable reputation rests on a handful of films. His quality of films were formidable, even though working within the confinement of Soviet State programs, he inherited blend of history, sci-fi, new-realists and art that captured multi dimensions in his own vision.

Tarkovsky’s first feature film was Ivan’s Childhood in 1962. He had inherited the film from director Eduard Abalov, who had to abort the project. The film earned Tarkovsky international acclaim and won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 1962. In the same year, on 30 September, his first son Arseny (called Senka in Tarkovsky’s diaries) Tarkovsky was born.

In 1972, he completed Solaris, an adaptation of the novel Solaris by Stanisław Lem. He had worked on this together with screen-writer Fridrikh Gorenshtein as early as 1968. The film was presented at the Cannes Film Festival, won the Grand Prix Spécial du Jury and the FIPRESCI prize, and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. From 1973 to 1974, he shot the film The Mirror, a highly autobiographical and unconventionally structured film drawing on his childhood and incorporating some of his father’s poems.

Tarkovsky’s international status was heightened in a big way after he migrated out of Soviet Union. His important films are Ivan’s Childhood in 1962. He then directed Andrei Rublev in 1966, Solaris in 1972, The Mirror in 1975 and Stalker in 1979. The documentary Voyage in Time was produced in Italy in 1982, as was Nostalghia in 1983. His last film The Sacrifice was produced in Sweden in 1986. Tarkovsky was personally involved in writing the screenplays for all his films, sometimes with a cowriter. Tarkovsky once said that a director who realizes somebody else’s screenplay without being involved in it becomes a mere illustrator, resulting in dead and monotonous films. Thou his career defied odds, he re-wrote the rule book on how science fiction can look in a post Kubrick universe. Tarkovsky’s reflective dialectic, his inability to provide linear explanations led to many problems with an autocratic State system, and eventually he sought support outside the Soviet Union to continue making his masterpieces. His final film, ‘The Sacrifice’ saw him pair up with Ingmar Bergman’s go-to cinematographer Sven Nykvist,  a symbolic coupling if ever there was one given Tarkovsky’s debt to Bergman as a filmmaker able to articulate the big philosophical questions.

Tarkovsky’s incredible artistic perception of cinema continues to resonate in the works of Haneke and Malick to mention a couple, and his body of work stands as a beacon for artists everywhere

Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.

“The idea of infinity cannot be expressed in words or even described, but it can be apprehended through art, which makes infinity tangible. The absolute is only attainable through faith and in the creative act”. Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky was someone who loved to talk film. His book Sculpting in Time (from which the above quote was taken) was released shortly before his death, and the intelligence and passion from even the few short quotes I’ve read show glimpses of what he could still have achieved.

Andrei Tarkovsky made just seven feature films. For a filmmaker who has such renown, that’s a tragically small number, made more impressive by the impact these few films have made. He succumbed to lung cancer at the end of 1986, aged just 54. His first feature, Ivan’s Childhood (1962) was made when Tarkovsky was 30

Tarkovsky’s Important Films

  • Ivan’s Childhood (1962)
  • Andrei Rublev (1969)
  • Solaris (1972)
  • Zerkalo (1975)
  • Stalker (1979)
  • Nostalgia (1983)
  • Offret/ The Sacrifice (1986)

Review

Andrei Rublev (1969): http://theworldcinemablog.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/andrei-rublev-1966-boisterous-phase-of-russian-history/

Solaris (1972): http://worldcinemaspa.org/2014/02/12/solaris-1972-one-of-the-greatest-sci-fi/

Nostalghia (1983): http://worldcinemaspa.org/2014/09/06/nostalghia-1983-cinematic-poetry/

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