Andrei Rublev (1966) and Solaris (1972) in this week’s bucket list of North East Filmaholics with The Mirror (1975) and Stalker (1979) coming next week.
Andrei Tarkovsky (1932 – 1986), positioned as one of the best and most influential film directors and writers of all time, created his own sense of cinema throughout a unique cinematic style that accompanied all his masterpieces.
Son of the well-known poet Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky, Andrei marked a post-war Soviet Union with unusual film themes lacking conventional dramatic structure, with profound and multidimensional characters and with ambiguous plots beyond a metaphysical state of mind, which concluded in labelling him as a master of spirituality.
His cinema was considered poetic by critics – a view that he never empathised with – and over time, he developed the so called “Sculpting time” which according to his mindset: “The dominant, all-powerful factor of the film image is rhythm, expressing the course of time within the frame”. His book, Sculpting in Time (Russian original title: “Запечатлённое время”, meaning “Captured Time”) was first published in 1985, with the first English version in 1987, and was actually an attempt of his own to provide insight into his filmmaking concepts and assist the audience in the long journey of comprehending his films.
Almost all of Tarkovsky’s films follow the motif of the evolving time which dramatically and rigidly change everything, something that Tarkovsky believed should be framed and presented in the big screen not differently as in real life. He considered as one of the ultimate goals of cinema the recording and tracing of the real-life human experience with time, which explains the long takes evident in all his movies alongside a dreaming sense created by poetic connotations.
Andrei Tarkovsky died of lung cancer in late 1986.
His unrepeatable talent and artistic sense of cinema can be experienced in two of his films below:
Andrei Rublev (1966)
In 15th century Russia, icon painter Andrei Rublev (Anatoliy Solonitsyn) while steeped in his theological inconsistencies and problems is forced into an episodic mind transition following a number of unpredictable occasions. The background of a medieval pre-Tsardom Russia acts as the best atmosphere for the film’s themes which include artistic freedom, religion, political ambiguity and the making of art under a repressive regime.
When the film was released it caused disunity in the strict Soviet system with a number of Soviet officials trying to prevent the official release and screenings in the Soviet Union and in other countries like France. Tarkovsky initially did not accept to cut any part of the film despite external pressure, but he finally ended up in the 186-minute version of the film in contrast to the original 205-minute version. After the political sabotage of the film, Tarkovsky said that in the entire city he couldn’t find a single poster of the film but that all theatres were sold out. In the 21th century the film secured a place in the “100 Best Films Of World Cinema” by many magazines, newspapers and critics.
When Solaris was released it was immediately considered as the Soviet response to Hollywood’s “2001 A Space Odyssey” (1968) directed by Stanley Kubrick, as both reflect similar themes with blended science fiction and mysterious elements. Solaris, based on the book of the same name by Stanislaw Lem that was published in 1961, follows the story of a psychologist that travels to a space station to inspect the emotional crisis of three scientists assigned to a scientific mission regarding fictional planet Solaris.
Tarkovsky attempted to reestablish the aims of the science fiction genre and shed light on the emotional world of the scientists rather than on the technological inventions and advancement, a path that American movies had followed.
Solaris raised a great number of significant questions and issues about human advancement and existence, creating a stepping stone for many future movies that followed. It is nowadays cited as one of the best science fiction movies of all time.