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Andrei Tarkovsky

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#1 Ron Reed

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 11:29 PM

mdsteves posted the following over in the Film, Criticism & Appreciation section. I figure it's a great topic, better suited to this neighbourhood - and more likely to get noticed.

Just wondering if anyone likes/dislikes Andrei Tarkovsky? Mainly curious because it seems one either loves or hates his work. Personally I love the stuff but appreciation is rather demanding.

Also I wonder what the thoughts are on his reject of Eisenstein's montage theory on juxtaposing shots to create meaning.

If anyone cares to comment on the iconography of his work feel free.

Personally Stalker is my favorite film of his.

Fire away.

Matt

Welcome, Matt! (Er, that came out kind of odd. Oh well...)

My Tarkovsky background is pretty limited, but he's made a huge impression. Knowing nothing about him, I saw THE SACRIFICE maybe a decade ago, and it was one of the most extraordinary movie experiences of my life. I think on another night, when I was tired or distractable or with particular expectations, I might easily have fallen into the "hate it" side of the "love it or hate it" equation. But I guess it was the right night, because I was completely captivated. So little happens in the film (in a narrative sense), and so little of it made real sense to me: nevertheless, it was like I was under a spell, completely engaged in trying to puzzle out what was going on, and in awe of the images in front of me, the sense of mystery. It really was a kind of religious experience. I'm not sure that I was even aware at the time of the film maker's Christian faith, but I definitely had a divine encounter watching that film.

My two most-trusted movie buddies both count ANDREI ROUBLEV as their favourite film of all time, but forbad me to see it until I could catch it on a big screen. So I only managed to see it this summer, as part of the touring Tarkovsky retrospective.

This time I was fighting tiredness, particularly in the last third of the movie. So it didn't have the transporting effect that SACRIFICE had had. I was intrigued by the film, eager to learn more about it and revisit it again, with the sense that this would be a lifetime relationship.

I'm very eager to see STALKER, which is the favourite film of another of my friends. And SOLARIS, to compare and contrast with the Soderbergh remake (which I won't see until I've checked out the original). I'm reluctant, though, to see them on my home TV screen, so I don't know when I'll be getting to those.

There are a couple good Tarkovsky sites out there. And I believe that a couple of the people who used to frequent this board do a lot of Tarkovsky on their film sites, as well. Do you know those?


Ron



#2 Cunningham

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 02:27 AM

My best friend is getting my Stalker for Christmas. Roadside Picnic, the book it's based on, is one of my top 5 favorites, so I'm really looking forward to seeing it. Neither of us have much patience, so I expect that we'll watch it over the weekend biggrin.gif

#3 MattPage

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 03:52 AM

I've only seen Solaris but it was in a cinema - and I'm a fan. Been trying to pick it up on ebay for a while, but its not easy to get cheaply.

Matt

#4 Christian

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 07:31 AM

Don't count out Nostalgia, which is a beautiful film, right up there with Stalker and Andrei Rublev.

I can't muster much enthusiasm for Solaris, and I think The Sacrifice would be a difficult place to start for a Tarkovsky novice (although I'm delighted to hear of Ron's positive experience).

I still have not seen "Ivan's Childhood."

Most of these movies air every now and then on the TCM cable channel. I'm not sure I endorse the view of Ron's friends -- that these films must be seen first on the big screen. My first Tarkovsky viewing was Andrei Rublev on UHF channel 56 in Northern Virginia, part of the channel's fundraising tool of showing classic foreign films for a week each year. I found the film captivating even on the small screen, although -- and this is crucial -- the presentation was letterboxed. That was unusual for the time (several years ago) but is commonplace on TCM, and in the DVD market.

I would seek out Tarkovsky in any venue. Of course, the big screen is the best experience -- it's just not the only way to appreciate Tarkovsky's work. I wouldn't want you to wait for a theatrical retrospective to roll into town. But if you do live in a town that exhibits such retrospectives, definitely take advantage. My second viewing of Andrei Rublev was on the big screen at the AFI theater in D.C., and it was great.

#5 M. Leary

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 10:48 AM

"My two most-trusted movie buddies both count ANDREI ROUBLEV as their favourite film of all time, but forbad me to see it until I could catch it on a big screen. So I only managed to see it this summer, as part of the touring Tarkovsky retrospective."

That is too bad. Make sure you watch Tarkovsky on a screen that can handle the format of his films, but I don't think it matters if you watch it on that small screen at first. Sure, the balloon sequence is breathtaking the grander it is, but the "see him only in 35mm" thing shouldn't scare you away from grabbing a few of his DVD's right away.

I am suprised no one has mentioned The Mirror here. We talked about that film extensively on previous versions of this board. If you read Sculpting in Time one gets the sense that The Mirror really is at the center of his work, his aesthetic and his biography become indistinguishable in the film. When people ask me about where to start with Tarkovsky, I always tell them to start with The Mirror. Just watch it. Don't bother with it in any other terms than a series of images, certainly be haunted by the pervading psychology of its ineffable narrative, but just let it roll over you.

It really is a tough film, but it really is what Tarkovsky is all about. Then move to Stalker, just because it is so watchable and so intellectually intoxicating. Stalker is a great way to get people hooked into Tarkovsky. Then the rest take in at your leisure as long as you end up back at The Mirror. If you don't end up back at the feet of the mirror in total awe and with a passion for trying to verbalize why it is such a powerful thing then you truly missed something important in your screening of his other films.

Other than many of the sequences in The Mirror, one of Tarkovsky's most challenging sequence is the candle scene in Nostalghia. An argument could easily be made that it is that very difficult scene that is Tarkovsky's most lucid discussion of his own films. In that film the expatriate, the exile from his homeland who alone can understand it because he can't see it, stands before a collective memory that can be brought irrevocably into the present through a poetic act. Has Tarkovsky done anything in his career other than this? Not really. So films like Andrei Rublev, My Name is Ivan, Solaris, etc... are all reflections on what is occuring in that scene in Nostalghia. It is in The Mirror that we have Tarkovsky actually engaging in the act of seeing that way.

So if there is any snobbery to be maintained about Tarkovsky, let it be that The Mirror is the place to start and finish.

#6 mdsteves

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Posted 19 February 2004 - 10:24 PM

Sorry I'm posting this twice but it seems more suited to this area though the other thread has been responded to more frequently.

I'm amused by the fact that I started this thread and have yet to make a real post. Haha. So here goes.

I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts about the ending of Stalker. OF specific interest is the situation of the crippled little girl (i.e. Stalker's daughter). At the end when she's sitting at the table we see objects on the table that start to shake which is clearly caused by the rumble of a train going by. Soon after the train is gone those same objects start to move again. If I was to be really nitpicky I'd say well it's because of those strings that we're not supposed to see pulling the stuff. But since this is a film it seems that it is supposed to be telepathy or something of the like.

So my question is whether the daughter telepathic, and if she is how she came upon this ability. Two possibilities come to mind. Earlier in the film a character mentions that the children of stalkers are different, i.e. unique. This telepathy might be attributed to this uniqueness. The other more potent theory I though of is the following. In the film when talking to his wife, Stalker says he has never been in the room. My theory is that he has been in that room and his daughter's ability is the product of his "wish."

This whole ambiguity is bothering me and I love it if someone has any ideas concerning this. Feel free to tell my I'm full of crap.

Also does anyone think Tarkovsky was full of crap when he said that for viewers to fully experience truth in film we had to see it in both b/w and color? Maybe he really did just run out of money

#7 Seth

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Posted 20 February 2004 - 05:55 PM

Tarkovsky definitely isn't a filmmaker for those who want concrete explanations, making him one of the most difficult filmmakers to discuss. Anyway, I love him...my favorite film by him is probably "The Sacrifice."

#8 mdsteves

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Posted 20 February 2004 - 07:47 PM

Sorry I guess I was unclear. I'm not exactly looking for freedom from ambiguity but I am interested in what other people felt when they watched it.

#9 SoNowThen

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Posted 23 February 2004 - 01:59 PM

saw The Mirror for the first time this weekend. Every time I thought I might have figured out what he was on about, a corner turned and I got lost again. And it was amazing. I felt like a non-person blob in my seat afterwards -- total meltdown, in a good way. I gotta watch this ten more times (though not in a row). Like Stalker, which I saw last weekend, it's slowly sinking in.

I'd really like to get these on dvd, but I've heard the versions are poor, and the discs are hella expensive. But AT is a filmmaker who demands to be watched again and again...

So the next question is: where should I go next? Sacrifice, Nostalghia, Rublev, or Solaris? Also, anybody own the Stalker/Mirror dvds??

#10 Doug C

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Posted 23 February 2004 - 04:55 PM

You've seen what are arguably his two most challenging films, but you'll want to see them all. Indeed, they are limitless work that require multiple viewings. The DVDs for both films are big improvements on the VHS, just make sure you watch the mono Stalker (and not the 5.1 remix).

Criterion released Andrei Rublev and Solaris, my next two favorites, and his last two films are on decent region 1 DVD releases. Don't forget his first feature, Ivan's Childhood (rumored to be released by Criterion in the near future) and his student thesis, The Steamroller and the Violin on DVD from Facets.

If you can find it, Chris Marker's recent documentary on Tarkovsky, One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich, is wonderful.

I warmly recommend http://www.nostalghia.com for more info.

#11 SoNowThen

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Posted 23 February 2004 - 05:25 PM

Cheers, thanks!!

Yeah, I read about the mono Stalker debacle. There's a copy on ebay as I type, but it doesn't specify if it's the fixed mono version. Tres expensive dvd though.

I just blind bought Soderbergh's Solaris, so if it's interesting, I'll move up to the Tarkovsky version.

I think Sacrifice is next on the bill. Are all his films 1.33:1?

#12 Doug C

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Posted 23 February 2004 - 05:52 PM

No, Rublev and Solaris are in cinemascope and Nostalghia and The Sacrifice are in the typical european 1.66x1, I believe.

I was very disappointed in Soderbergh's film. In fact, try to watch Tarkovsky's version first--at least the approach has chronological merit. smile.gif

The Stalker DVD is overpriced but it's worth it. There are two Ruscico versions (only one has the mono), but all of the Image region 1 discs have the mono.

#13 mdsteves

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Posted 23 February 2004 - 09:55 PM

I have the Image version of Stalker and I did pay a bit. It's presented full 1:33:1 so I assume/hope that's how it was shot. I was a bit disappointed with the dvd though. Aside from a couple interesting interviews it doesn't really warrant being two discs. It does have a couple minutes of footage of Tarkovsky's house which is described as a documentary on the packaging but is nothing of the sort.

#14 mdsteves

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Posted 23 February 2004 - 10:18 PM

I read in an article that Tarkovsky deliberately shot a lot of his films using both color and b/w. His idea was that the only way we could experience truth was if we experienced both.

I find it facinating that what Tarkovsky was most interested in was truth. I understand that that was the reason he rejected Eistenstein's theory of Montage. In his mind the cut was a lie and the only way to get around that was not to cut. So we get a number of films with seemingly interminable shots. His methodology really seems to show through in the film Andrei Rublev. Tarkovsky's idea was that all meaning be contained within the shot instead of juxtaposing shots to create meaning. It is similar with icon paintings where framing and mis en scene are so dominating. I'm guessing Tarkovsky's choice of subject matter was not a coincidence.

So I think the main problem with audiences responding positively to his films is the need to lean an entirely different film language, i.e. the camera creeping up behind an actor doesn't mean a person is coming up from behind.

So does anyone think there is an audience for a modern 'Tarkovsky,' or would they be laughed out of town. My reason for asking is because I haven't seen a filmmaker who remotely resembles this style. And if they did would it be taken as seriously. In other words do the films have any weight without the ideology/philosophy/intellect to back them up?

Or do Tarkovsky's films stand on their own, as a series of shots?


Also, I thought Soderbergh's Solaris was lame next to Tarkovsky's. They took out most of the compelling ideological discussion which I thought was a main reason why it was so compelling. Tarkovsky always said his genres were mere containers for delivering what he was trying to say. And he always regretted making Solaris as a science fiction piece because he thought that got in the way of his message.

I haven't read Sculpting in Time, but I've been craving it for about 4 years.

#15 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 03:06 AM

mdsteves wrote:
: And he always regretted making Solaris as a science fiction piece
: because he thought that got in the way of his message.

Pfeh. Pfeh, I say.

And no, the fact that I'm currently listening to Jerry Goldsmith's score for Star Trek: First Contact has nothing to do with this. smile.gif

For our earlier thread on Andrei Rublev (and, uh, Spy Kids 3-D -- don't look at me, *I* didn't start it!), click here. I find myself thinking about that film a lot lately, given its unflinching portrayal of human and natural brutality, and how it shows Rublev trying to, I dunno, escape? transcend? all that through his icons. Given that the brutal passion-play tradition that spawned Mel Gibson's film may have arisen in the 1300s partly as a response to the sufferings of that era, I find it striking that the Eastern church apparently did NOT push its art in that direction ... and that Tarkovsky tries to do both at the same time.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 04 June 2005 - 05:50 PM.


#16 Doug C

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 11:21 AM

mdsteves, the Stalker DVD looks incredibly good (particularly Part I) so for that reason alone, I think the DVD is worth it. I don't ultimately care if it has lots of extras, I think a DVD is justified by its drastically increased visual and audio clarity alone. And yes, it was definitely shot in academy ratio (1.33).


"I read in an article that Tarkovsky deliberately shot a lot of his films using both color and b/w. His idea was that the only way we could experience truth was if we experienced both."

I'm not familiar with this quote, but if you forward a reference, I'll check it out. Tarkovsky did have budgetary constraints, especially with Stalker, where the processing lab destroyed his original negative halfway into shooting (he believed it was sabotage) and he had to start over from scratch, but that's not to say that his decision to shoot in black-and-white wasn't an economic as well as an aesthetic decision.



"It is similar with icon paintings where framing and mis en scene are so dominating...."

As is the length of the gaze (shot).


"So does anyone think there is an audience for a modern 'Tarkovsky,' or would they be laughed out of town."

Of course there is. Kino International nationally rereleased all his films just last year, which toured many cities. I saw several of the films here in L.A. and the theatre was positively packed each time. I also participate in a lot of film listservs and I can assure you there is a very large and extensive international following for Tarkovsky's work. When his films started to be released on DVD a couple years ago, it was a veritable feeding frenzy; in fact, it was popular outcry alone that caused Ruscico to reissue their Stalker DVD with Tarkovsky's original mono soundtrack. That was an expensive screwup for them. And international polls like the ones taken at SensesofCinema.com continually rank Tarkovsky as one of the top ten filmmakers of the medium. Anyone who thinks Tarkovsky is esoteric or unknown simply isn't paying attention to contemporary cinephilia.



"My reason for asking is because I haven't seen a filmmaker who remotely resembles this style."

Two I'm thinking of are Alexander Sokurov and Béla Tarr, and Nuri Bilge Ceylan's acclaimed Distant references Tarkovsky throughout. I'd also highly recommend the new Russian film, The Return. I attended a screening with the director providing a Q/A in which he told everyone Tarkovsky was the most profound filmmaker in the history of his country. The slow, atmospheric approach in The Return, as well as its spiritual emphases, has undeniable similarities.



"Also, I thought Soderbergh's Solaris was lame next to Tarkovsky's. They took out most of the compelling ideological discussion which I thought was a main reason why it was so compelling. Tarkovsky always said his genres were mere containers for delivering what he was trying to say. And he always regretted making Solaris as a science fiction piece because he thought that got in the way of his message."

Bingo--you've nailed it on the head. In the context of this board, it's also interesting that Tarkovsky, a Christian, very much changed the athiestic connotations of the novel and turned it into a celebration of personal and spiritual discovery. Soderbergh attempted to "reset" the narrative into an athiestic context.


"I haven't read Sculpting in Time, but I've been craving it for about 4 years."

Well what are you waiting for...? It's readily available and an amazing read! smile.gif

#17 SoNowThen

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 11:24 AM

As to filmmakers who resemble the Tarkovsky style, it seems to me that early Von Trier sorta does. The Europa trilogy I mean...

#18 SoNowThen

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Posted 13 May 2004 - 03:34 PM

Bump



I've since seen Andrei Rublev.


Not since 8 1/2 have I been so moved with visual presentation and narrative unfolding. I can't find proper words to really describe it, except for the fact that I will have to buy the Criterion dvd and watch it at least once a year. I'm seeking out the 185min version as well. Anybody favor the shorter cut?

#19 opus

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Posted 13 May 2004 - 04:11 PM

Okay, so I've been looking to get Stalker on DVD for quite some time, as it's probably my fave Tarkovsky film (though I've yet to see them all). I know that the DVD with the 5.1 mix is universally decried because that's not how Tarkovsky intended it. But I'm a little confused as to which version is the one with the 5.1 mix. I went to DVDBeaver and came away just as confused for some reason - are there 2 or 3 different versions? And is the one currently available on Amazon the "good" one?

#20 SoNowThen

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Posted 13 May 2004 - 04:22 PM

Apparently it is, as it says Russian 1.0 as well as the messed-up 5.1 sound.

Best case scenario, why not order it directly from Ruscico? Just request the dvd with mono sound.

A word of warning on this dvd: the R1 and R0 NTSC versions are quite visually blurred and seem to have the shakes. If you have all-region capabilities, go for the R2 dvd.

I haven't watched all the way through the R0 version I bought, but from what I took a quick look at, it's going to be quite annoying to sit through...





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