‘If one removes everything pertaining to gaining profit from human activities only art will be left’ – said Andrei Tarkovsky in his last interview. Western audience appears to be acquainted with the works of this outstanding film director and scriptwriter (may be even better than majority of the Russians): most of the releases of Tarkovsky’s films in DVD format are supplied with subtitles in several languages. The name of Andrei Tarkovsky is the first that usually comes to a foreign mind if asked about Russian cinema.
Tarkovsky’s cinema is a whole realm, the realm of his soul experiencing and conveying profound feelings and reflections. In his every film we see the main character that is actually Tarkovsky himself, with inner experiences counterpoising the moral distortions brought about by the Soviet Regime as well as any other twisted morals on screen.
Andrei Tarkovsky managed to convey the essence of human being perhaps better than anyone else in cinema. In his films he dwells upon various facets of a human emphasizing man’s beauty and fragility, both physical and spiritual.
Tarkovsky had to overcome numerous obstacles while creating his unique films here, in his motherland. Each creation was taking a very hard birth and required a part of his vital force. The obstacles often came from the authorities who also sometimes stood in the way of the film’s releases. At the same time, Tarkovsky’s creations were at once appreciated as world-class achievements abroad.
Andrei Tarkovsky was born on April 4, 1932, in the family of the notable poet Arseniy Tarkovsky and Maria Vishnyakova, a literary corrector. When Andrei was only three years old his father left the family (the movie “Zerkalo” (“Mirror”) is a reflection upon this).
According to the memoirs of Andrei’s coevals from an early age he was a person with the strong awareness of inner freedom.
In the mid 50s Andrei realizes his vocation and enters the direction faculty of VGIK (The All-Union State Institute of Cinematography) and graduates from it in 1960.
He studied together with Vasili Shukshin, Andron Konchalovsky, Elem Klimov and other personalities to become cinema stars of that generation. During the student years he became close friends with Konchalovsky; they made their term works on film direction together. Later Konchalovsky becomes Tarksovsky’s coauthor of the script of ‘Andrei Rublev’, one of the most prominent films by Tarkovsky.
His first independent work (not taking into account Tarkovsky’s student works, short-length movies) is “Ivanovo Detstvo” (“Ivan’s Childhood”) after Boris Bogomolov’s story. The film cannot but leave a strong impression: it is a penetrating and powerful creation. It tells about the war, vividly and tragically, in a remarkably acute way, with a deep philosophical and psychological insight. “Ivan’s Childhood” premiered in 1962 and at once brought its creator the Golden Lion at the prestigious international cinema festival in Venice. Starting with that film the Western cinema public keenly observed Tarkovsky’s creative life and his destiny.
The first success was followed by “Andrei Rublev”. Though it was ready in 1966, Soviet authorities disliked it and made Tarkovsky detruncate and refilm it. As a result, the Russian audience saw the film only in 1971, and it was the shortened version. However the film was released in the West much earlier and took numerous awards. Critics of the European Cinema Academy acknowledge “Andrei Rublev” to be one of the eight best films in the overall history of world cinema.
The film “Solaris” (1971-1972), a screen version of the same name novel by Stanislav Lem, also aroused a surge of cavils from Soviet cinema critics. In 1974 Tarkovsky creates the autobiographical feature film “Zerkalo” (“Mirror”). The highly poetic and picturesque movie with a fabulous puzzle-like montage was far beyond understanding of Soviet apparatus functionaries that were only glad to attack with their mockery.
Tarkovsky got offended and decided to leave the USSR. However, before leaving he made “Stalker” (1980), his last film in the motherland. The film is screened after the fantastic story “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and penetrates into the very essence of man’s morality.
In 1980 Tarkovsky was awarded the RSFSR People’s Artist title. And in the same year he took Italian award David Di Donatello in nomination “For Contribution into Cinema Art”.
The last few years of his life Tarkovsky spent abroad. In 1982 he filmed “Nostalgia” starring Oleg Yankovsky in Italy.
At the end of 1985 after completing the filming of “The Sacrifice” in Sweden Tarkovsky returns to Rome dead-struck already.
Andrei Tarkovsky died on December 29 in 1986 of lung cancer. He was buried in the graveyard of Russian emigrants nearby Paris. The epitaph reads: “To the Man who saw an Angel”.
Filmography as director:
1. Ubiytsy (1958) ... aka The Killers
2. Segodnya uvolneniya ne budet (1959) aka There Will Be No Leave Today
3. Katok i skripka (1960) aka The Steamroller and the Violin
4. Ivanovo detstvo (1962) aka Ivan's Childhood
5. Andrey Rublyov (1969) aka Andrei Rublev
6. Solyaris (1972) aka Solaris
7. Zerkalo (1975) aka The Mirror
8. Stalker (1979)
9. Tempo di viaggio (1983) aka Voyage in Time (TV)
10. Nostalgia (1983)
11. Offret (1986) aka The Sacrifice
Filmography as actor:
1. Ubiitsy (1958) aka The Killers
2. Mne dvadtsat let (1964) aka I am Twenty
3. Sergei Lazo (1968) Bochkarev-White Guard officer