Thursday, 12 January 2012

Andrei Tarkovsky


Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky (Russian: Андрей Арсеньевич Тарковский; April 4, 1932 – December 29, 1986) was a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, writer, film editor, film theorist, theatre and opera director, widely regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century.

Tarkovsky's films include Andrei Rublev, Solaris, The Mirror, and Stalker. He directed the first five of his seven feature films in the Soviet Union; his last two films were produced in Italy and Sweden, respectively. They are characterized by spirituality and metaphysical themes, long takes, lack of conventional dramatic structure and plot, and distinctively authored use of cinematography.

Film director Ingmar Bergman said of Tarkovsky:

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.
Tarkovsky was born in the village of Zavrazhye in Ivanovo Oblast, the son of poet and translator Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky, native of Kirovohrad, Ukraine, and Maria Ivanova Vishnyakova, a graduate of the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute.Tarkovsky spent his childhood in Yuryevets.[2] He was described by childhood friends as active and popular, having many friends and being typically in the center of action. In 1937, his father left the family, subsequently volunteering for the army in 1941. Tarkovsky stayed with his mother, moving with her and his sister Marina to Moscow, where she worked as a proofreader at a printing press. In 1939, Tarkovsky enrolled at the Moscow School № 554. During the war, the three evacuated to Yuryevets, living with his maternal grandmother. In 1943, the family returned to Moscow. Tarkovsky continued his studies at his old school, where the poet Andrey Voznesensky was one of his classmates. He learned the piano at a music school and attended classes at an art school. The family lived on Shshipok Street in the Zamoskvorechye District in Moscow. From November 1947 to spring 1948, he was in a hospital with tuberculosis. Many themes of his childhood - the evacuation, his mother and her two children, the withdrawn father, the time in the hospital - feature prominently in his film The Mirror.

Following high school graduation, from 1951 to 1952, Tarkovsky studied Arabic at the Oriental Institute in Moscow, a branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Although he already spoke some Arabic and was a successful student in his first semesters, he did not finish his studies and dropped out to work as a prospector for the Academy of Science Institute for Non-Ferrous Metals and Gold. He participated in a year-long research expedition to the river Kureikye near Turukhansk in the Krasnoyarsk Province. During this time in the Taiga Tarkovsky decided to study film.
Tarkovsky is mainly known as a director of films. During his career he directed only seven feature films, and three short films during his time at the film school. He also wrote several screenplays, directed the play Hamlet for the stage in Moscow, the opera Boris Godunov in London, and directed a radio production of the short story Turnabout by William Faulkner. He also wrote Sculpting In Time, a book on film theory.

Tarkovsky's first feature film was Ivan's Childhood in 1962. He then directed in the Soviet Union 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 co-writer. To Tarkovsky, a director who realizes somebody else's screenplay without being involved in it becomes a mere illustrator, resulting in dead and monotonous filmsTarkovsky became a film director during the mid and late 1950s, a period during which Soviet society opened to foreign films, literature and music. This allowed Tarkovsky to see films of European, American and Japanese directors, an experience which influenced his own film making. His teacher and mentor at the film school, Mikhail Romm, allowed his students considerable freedom and emphasized the independence of the film director.

Tarkovsky was, according to Shavkat Abdusalmov, a fellow student at the film school, fascinated by Japanese films. He was amazed by how every character on the screen is exceptional and how everyday events such as a Samurai cutting bread with his sword are elevated to something special and put into the limelight. Tarkovsky has also expressed interest in the art of Haiku and its ability to create "images in such a way that they mean nothing beyond themselves."

In 1972, Tarkovsky told film historian Leonid Kozlov his ten favorite films. The list includes: Diary of a Country Priest and Mouchette, by Robert Bresson; Winter Light, Wild Strawberries and Persona, by Ingmar Bergman; Nazarín, by Luis Buñuel; City Lights, by Charlie Chaplin; Ugetsu, by Kenji Mizoguchi; Seven Samurai, by Akira Kurosawa, and Woman in the Dunes, by Hiroshi Teshigahara. Among his favorite directors were Buñuel, Mizoguchi, Bergman, Bresson, Kurosawa, Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean Vigo, and Carl Theodor Dreyer
With the exception of City Lights, the list does not contain any films of the early silent era. The reason is that Tarkovsky saw film as an art as only a relatively recent phenomenon, with the early film-making forming only a prelude. The list has also no films or directors from Tarkovsky's native Russia, although he rated Soviet directors such as Boris Barnet, Sergei Paradjanov and Alexander Dovzhenko highly.

Although strongly opposed to commercial cinema, in a famous exception Tarkovsky praised the blockbuster film The Terminator, saying its "vision of the future and the relation between man and its destiny is pushing the frontier of cinema as an art". He was critical of the "brutality and low acting skills", but nevertheless impressed by this filmTarkovsky's films are characterised by metaphysical themes, extremely long takes, and memorable images of exceptional beauty. Recurring motifs are dreams, memory, childhood, running water accompanied by fire, rain indoors, reflections, levitation, and characters re-appearing in the foreground of long panning movements of the camera. He once said, “Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema.”

Tarkovsky included levitation scenes into several of his films, most notably Solaris. To him these scenes possess great power and are used for their photogenic value and magical inexplicability
Water, clouds, and reflections were used by him for its surreal beauty and photogenic value, as well as its symbolism, such as waves or the form of brooks or running water.

Bells and candles are also frequent symbols. These are symbols of film, sight and sound, and Tarkovsky's film frequently has themes of self reflection.

Tarkovsky developed a theory of cinema that he called "sculpting in time". By this he meant that the unique characteristic of cinema as a medium was to take our experience of time and alter it. Unedited movie footage transcribes time in real time. By using long takes and few cuts in his films, he aimed to give the viewers a sense of time passing, time lost, and the relationship of one moment in time to another.

Up to, and including, his film The Mirror, Tarkovsky focused his cinematic works on exploring this theory. After The Mirror, he announced that he would focus his work on exploring the dramatic unities proposed by Aristotle: a concentrated action, happening in one place, within the span of a single day.

Several of Tarkovsky's films have color or black and white sequences, including for example Andrei Rublev which features an epilogue in color of religious icon paintings, as well as Solaris, The Mirror, and Stalker, which feature monochrome and sepia sequences while otherwise being in color. In 1966, in an interview conducted shortly after finishing Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky dismissed color film as a "commercial gimmick" and cast doubt on the idea that contemporary films meaningfully use color. He claimed that in everyday life one does not consciously notice colors most of the time. Hence in film color should be used mainly to emphasize certain moments, but not all the time as this distracts the viewer. To him, films in color are like moving paintings or photographs, which are too beautiful to be a realistic depiction of life.

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