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Andrei Tarkovsky – the sculptor of time

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Andrei Tarkovsky – the sculptor of time. 

written by Souranath Banerjee

‘My discovery of Tarkovsky’s first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. 

I felt encouraged and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.’ 

– Ingmar Bergman on Tarkovsky.

The famous Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky himself believed that ‘Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art.’

A sequence from his epic film Ivan’s Childhood (1962), where Tarkovsky made sure he created cinema that is both ‘spiritual’ and ‘timeless‘. 

Steven Soderbergh, who remade Solaris (2002) with George Clooney in the lead confessed ‘I’m a big fan of Tarkovsky. I think he’s an actual poet, which is very rare in the cinema, and the fact that he had such an impact with only seven features I think is a testament to his genius.’

Son of the famous Russian poet Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky, the films Tarkovsky made were essentially poetic and mystic in nature. They are distinguished by metaphysical themes, extensive use of long takes and very few cuts, and they also (most often) deviates from all the general film-narrative structures. 

The famous levitation scene from Solaris (1972), Tarkovsky’s experiment with the Sci Fi genre.

Lars von Trier while explaining why he dedicated his film Antichrist (2009) to Tarkovsky mentioned ‘Have you ever seen a film called Mirror? I was hypnotised! I’ve seen it 20 times. It’s the closest I’ve got to a religion – to me he is God.’

Tarkovsky1But then again, majority of the audience and many critics across the world find his style of cinema too intricate and often impenetrable; they find his expansive long takes too languid and even boring. His cinema demands a little bit of patience.

Tarkovsky, who never believed in commercialization of cinema claimed that ‘If the regular length of a shot is increased, one becomes bored, but if you keep on making it longer, it piques your interest, and if you make it even longer a new quality emerges, a special intensity of attention.’

A sequence from The Mirror (1975), the shamanistic visuals that blur the lines of dreams and reality. 

After Tarkovsky’s death on 29 December 1986 Akira Kurosawa spoke of his ‘unusual sensitivity [as] both overwhelming and astounding. It almost reaches a pathological intensity. Probably there is no equal among film directors alive now.’

Tarkovsky wrote the famous book on film theory known as Sculpting in Time, where he spoke about his inspirations and also the power of cinema as a medium that can alter our experience of time.

His unique cinematography and remarkable ability to freeze time still exhilarate and inspire filmmakers and will continue to do so forever.

My favorite scene from Stalker (1979), visuals so magical and enigmatic that it gives almost a supernatural feeling.

Photo Courtesy: http://andrei-tarkovsky.com

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