Authors: Andrey Tarkovsky

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Russian director and screenwriter

Author Works

Screenplays:

Katok i skripka, 1960 (with Andrey Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky; The Steamroller and the Violin, 1981)

Ivanovo detstvo, 1962 (with Mikhail Papava and Vladimir Bogomolov; based on Bogomolov’s novella Ivan; My Name Is Ivan, 1963, also known as Ivan’s Childhood)

Andrei Rublev, 1966 (with Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky; English translation, 1968 [censored version], 1983 [original version])

Solaris, 1972 (with Friedrich Gorenstein; based on StanisuawLem’s novel)

Zerkalo, 1974 (with Aleksandr Misharin; The Mirror, 1983)

Ctankep, 1979 (Stalker, 1982)

Nostalghia, 1983 (with Tonino Guerra; Nostalgia, 1984)

Offret, 1986 (The Sacrifice, 1986)

Nonfiction:

Die Versiegelte Zeit, 1986 (Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema, 1986)

Time Within Time: The Diaries, 1970–1986, 1991

Biography

Between 1962 and 1986, Andrey Arsenyevich Tarkovsky (tahr-KAWF-skee) directed some of the best films of the twentieth century. Ingmar Bergman called him “the most important director of our time.” Born in Moscow and raised in Tuchkovo, Tarkovsky was always torn between his Russian roots and his international role as an artist. Soviet authorities restricted the release and promotion of his films in Russia and abroad. When he defected to the West in July, 1984, it was with profound ambivalence: Like the character in his 1983 film Nostalgia, he suffered from a powerful sense of disorientation, homesickness, and loss. He died two years later in Paris, from cancer, at the age of fifty-six.{$I[AN]9810001592}{$I[A]Tarkovsky, Andrey}{$I[geo]RUSSIA;Tarkovsky, Andrey}{$I[tim]1932;Tarkovsky, Andrey}

Tarkovsky’s films show an unrelenting concern for the human spirit in an age of rapid technological advances. Humankind, he believed, must turn inward and renew its concern with spirituality or else run the risk of self-annihilation. His final film, The Sacrifice, is a testament to this idea: A man takes drastic personal action–he burns down his house and refuses to speak–as a nuclear war looms imminent. Tarkovsky certainly did not see the materialistic, consumer-oriented West as the answer to the world’s spiritual woes. His films explore the boundaries of personal freedom versus an ideal moral order; this duality serves as the fundamental conflict of his protagonists. They want unlimited freedom, but they strive to realize moral perfection.

Tarkovsky spent his early childhood in Tuchkovo, a rural farming village. His father, a soldier in World War II, came home intermittently. His mother stayed home at the family farm and took care of the children. Tarkovsky idealized his parents. His father, Arseniy, was a poet and translator; his mother, Maria Ivanovna, was an actress. Andrey knew that he also would work in the arts but did not know exactly how.

After leaving the Institute of Oriental Languages in 1954, Tarkovsky spent a year as a geological prospector in Siberia. His work involved solitary walks for hundreds of miles over vast, desolate landscapes. This experience undoubtedly shows in his films; they are often set in extreme, remote locales, the severity of which puts his characters to constant tests of faith.

Tarkovsky graduated from the All-Union State Cinematography Institute in 1960. His first major film, Ivan’s Childhood, won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1962. The film tells the story of a Russian boy’s daring reconnaissance efforts during World War II. Tarkovsky saw Ivan’s Childhood as a turning point; its success gave him confidence in his abilities as a director and visual poet–he created ingenious filmic images. Falling snow, for example, is later echoed by falling bits of paper, shredded documents, as the Russians enter Berlin.

In Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky depicted the great Russian icon painter in the turbulent Middle Ages. Growing up in a monastery, Rublev painted with talent, but it was only after he saw the horrors of the outside world (Tartars on horseback killing people with abandon, pagans holding fertility rites) did he learn to paint with passion. The film illustrates Tarkovsky’s belief that personal convictions must be validated by actual experience to have true value.

The 1972 film Solaris takes place on a space station above a planet whose seas produce hallucinations in the minds of their observers. The protagonist, Kelvin, is confronted with a replication of his wife, who had killed herself on Earth. His conscience brings her back and allows him to try to right his past behavior. Tarkovsky’s visual poetry achieves a dazzling beauty in this film. He compares flowing algae to Kelvin’s wife’s hair to tassles on her shawl. Solaris is also a sort of meditation on immortality–how people live on after they die.

The Mirror is Tarkovsky’s most autobiographical film. For its setting, he returned to his childhood home and rebuilt the house in which he had once lived, to re-create the past. He even rented a neighboring field and planted buckwheat, the crop that grew there when he was young. His mother’s character is central to The Mirror; the same actress, Margarita Terekhova, plays both his wife and mother.

With Stalker in 1979, Tarkovsky returned to science fiction. A “zone” is established when a meteorite destroys a village. The zone is a treacherous forbidden place navigated by “stalkers” who serve as guides. On this occasion, a stalker escorts a scientist and a writer to seek the special room in the village where one’s most longed-for desires can be obtained.

Tarkovsky’s last two films were made outside Russia. Nostalgia, filmed in Italy and cowritten with his friend Tonino Guerra, depicts the struggles of a Russian poet as he researches the life of a Russian émigré musician. The poet is distraught with longing for his native land and family. He is torn between the past and present, between love for his wife and feelings for his beautiful Italian translator. The Sacrifice, filmed in Sweden with the help of Ingmar Bergman’s production team, is set at a house by a seacoast as a nuclear war becomes inevitable. The film questions what individuals can do to avert such a catastrophe and wonders if love expressed through sacrifice is an appropriate response.

Bibliography“Back to the Future, Soviet Style.” Premiere 3, no. 10 (June, 1990): 38. A favorable review of the video release of Tarkovsky’s 1972 film Solaris.LeFanu, Mark. The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky. London: BFI, 1987. Provides excellent criticism of each film and makes insightful observations about Tarkovsky’s work as a whole.Liehm, Mira, and Antonin Liehm. The Most Important Art: Eastern European Film After 1945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977. Survey of postwar film production in Eastern Europe; includes several indexes and a bibliography.Tarkovsky, Andrey. Time Within Time: The Diaries. New York: Verso, 1993. Includes interviews with the filmmaker.Turovskaya, Maya. Tarkovsky: Cinema as Poetry. Boston: Faber & Faber, 1989. Includes an introduction by Ian Christie as well as an index and a bibliography.
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