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The Messianic Power of Pictures: THE FILMS OF ANDREI TARKOVSKY Author(s): Maria Ratschewa Source: Cinaste, Vol.

13, No. 1 (1983), pp. 27-29 Published by: Cineaste Publishers, Inc Stable URL: . Accessed: 02/12/2013 06:06
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the filmsofotherSoviet sky's filmswere banned or censored directors of his generation, outright; many socialist artistshave TarkovAndrei Tarkovsky's work is made a careerbyemigrating. Unlike He well known and highlyrespectedin skydoesn'tneed thiskindofglory. else- a thoughtwestern Europe. Tarkovsky's films demands something are liked even by people who admit fulaudience, people who accept the to under- spiritof his films.For such viewers, they find them difficult stand. He has made relativelyfew his filmsare neithercomplex nor infilms: fivein twenty . years. MyName comprehensible is Ivan was his first followed feature, Intentionally, Tarkovsky returns AndreiRublev to the same symbols and devices in bytheaward-winning and Solaris, then,at approximately each film,even "quoting" himself. five year intervals,The Mirrorand The themes or ideas continuallyexof the Stalker. Why the fifty-one-year-old pressed are the responsibility Tarkovskyhas made so fewfilmsis artisttoward his epoch and his felexplainedeagerlyin the West by the lows, the artist's own view of the each world,and the legacy ofthe culture, often thatafter repeatedtheory film he becomes out-of favorwiththe whether Russian or international, In thisview,Tarkovsky's whichis permanent. authorities. Tarkovsky'slife films are seen as disguisedcriticisms is an important key to the films;he ofSovietsociety.Itis said thatAndrei has said that all the events and figforinstance,are Rublev, a filmabout a 15th century ures in The Mirror, Russian monk, was unexhibitedfor authentic.His rootslie in theRussian four years, that Tarkovsky seldom artistic intelligentsia; Tarkovsky's appears in westernEurope,and rare- father is a poet whose verses are heard in the film, while the home in ly grants interviews.* Rumours abound: Solaris was reeditedpriorto The Mirror is modeled after his release in the west (it was not); the grandfather's peasant cottage. of The Mirrorwas of- Tarkovskysays ofhis life: distribution in curtailed(actually,interest ficially In 1939, duringmyprimary the filmpreceded its release) and so school years, I used to visit a on. It would be easier and farmore music school, then the war bepleasant forsome people if Tarkovgan. I was forced to give up music. My parents moved us I *SeeSight and Sound,Summer 1981. Above: Andrei Rublev

far away fromMoscow, nearer to the Volga and we stayed away from the capital for two years. Ifinallygraduatedfrom theconservatory, butitwas difficult formy motherto support us in that time of widespread hunger. I started to study painting,butI did notbecomea painter and do not regret it. The one mistake of my lifeis thatI gave up music,because it is the highest art form. It affects us in a purely emotional way, yet is a total abstraction. It is the most profound and total way to express the creative essence... I studied geologyand my twoyears as a sample collector in Siberia were splendid. In 1954 I entered the Moscow Film Instituteand studied underMikhail Romm. Evidently, Tarkovsky's profesa wide rangeof sional choice followed a conreflect experienceand his films stantsearch fora synthesisofdiffer- a synthesis ent expressive forms which unites his feelings and beliefs in a complex way reminiscent ofthe abstractionof music, not of the conHis film creteimagery offilm. images are extremelyrich, even wasteful. 27

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is not ashamed to moralize "Tarkovsky At a time or preach of art as a catharsis. when most cinema functions solely as shakes to entertainment, Tarkovsky people the core of their souls." The Mirror ends,for me,withtheconversationbetween the unseen hero and his wife. This scene completes the chain of events in the cyclical ofthehero.The last halfhourof story screen timecolorsthe storywithimpressions. And the story? A village the war, childhood,an absent father, and hunger. The Stalin years are designated by an episode in which the mother, a proofreader,panics whenshe can notremember whether she has correctedan erroror not. Later, the protagonist'sown family lifeis disordered; he cannotestablish contactwithhis mother, wife,or son. Interwoven into this frankly autobiographical film are the key events of those years: the Spanish Civil War; the battle withGermany; the atomic bomb; and the Cultural Revolution in China. Whatis peculiar is how individualizedTarkovskyhas made these impersonal events, the landmarks of his own generation. This is because ofa veryspecific narrativestyle which he had begun to develop in My Name is Ivan and in each succeedingfilm. His perfected narration is based paradoxically upon the stream of consciousness technique, with the use of reality, dreams, visions, memories,literary and picturesin a manner fragments as natural as a person's thoughts. Tarkovskyneed not inventany dramaturgicaldevice to change the time of action, to shift from black and white to color, or to show an empty room with a boy before whom appears a woman who asks him to read Pushkin. a passage from Pushkindefines The passage from roleofRussia as a natural thehistoric fortressdefendingwestern Europe from barbarian tribes, and that is different whyRussia has had a totally development. This quote demons love for Eurostrates Tarkovsky' pean and Russian culture.In each of his filmswe see picturesby Da Vinci or Drer,hear music by Bach, Purcell, or Pergolesi,and verse by Russian poets, including his father, feelsbound to his Arsenij.Tarkovsky culture,with an ambition to play a greatrole in it. A typical example is his Andrei Rublev, which is not merelya historical or art film,despite its costumes and icons. Alternatingepievents in the different sodes portray 14th and 15th centuries in various AnpartsofRussia. The icon-painter drei Rublev is not the subject of the all thosethings which butrather film, formedhim as a painter, the culture in its historicaldevelopment.At the a churchbell is raised startofthefilm and, at its close, anotherbell is cast and placed in a church.Twenty years separatethese events,yearsin which Rublev has painted many icons, has seen much human suffering, and has of witnessedthe wanton destruction a flourishing town. Rublev's faithin the role of art is broken,but he remains a creator,somethingTarkovsky stresses by endinghis black and white filmwith displays of Rublev's icons in magnificent color. The film'sfocusis the disputebetween Rublev and another famous icon-painter, his contemporary, Theophan the Greek. Theophan doesn't recognize nature and despises people. He portrays severe, ofGod ascetic facesand preachesfear and redemption sin. Rublev,on from believes and loves peothe contrary, ple; the saints in his icons have the facesofrealmen,onlymorebeautiful and more spiritual. Tarkovsky has said that human love is the miracle about the thatdisprovesdrytheories hopelessness ofthe world.This faith

The Mirror 28

MyNameis Ivan

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to proalways inspiresthefilmmaker duce optimistic endingsthatcounter ofthesoul's physical thedescriptions pain and suffering. In AndreiRublev, a boy manages to cast a bell, despitehis lack ofskill and experience, because ofhis strong desire. In Solaris, one of the four heroesin theuniverse, theone able to feeland suffer, is granteda vision by an ocean ofthinking Amidan matter. atmosphereof general faithlessness and disappointment in Stalker, a crippledchild,thevictimofa father's fanaticism,is grantedthe power to moveobjects.These are nottheusual Hollywood "happy endings," but suggestan ideologyin which nature is as importantas human beings. This view of man as part of nature and natureas a continuation ofman produces scenes showingthe movement of insects, fish, leaves, and water. Tarkovsky displays a pantheismthat is unusual forour time, but typicalofearliercultures. Today, when the problem of the environment's protection is so we would call him an ecolourgent, gist,but notso manyyears ago, such a poeticglorification ofnature might have been interpreted as an inclinaand the Church, tiontowardreligion especially since the discussions of and doubt play important faith parts A faith, in mostofTarkovsky'sfilms. but in what? Humanity. But what kindofhumanity, and love ofwhom?

Stalker All these questions are posed in his latest film,Stalker. Extremelysimple, without stylistic or thematic puzzles, Stalker captivates its audience. The story is unusual. As a result of cosmic phenomena, a specificregionofa countryhas become immune to the laws of physical intheregion science. Popularinterest has caused many deaths, so police and barbedwireseparatethis"Zone" from the surroundingcountryside. Three men decide to penetratethe "Zone." In comparison to the muddy and gloomy world in which the three heroes live, the "Zone" resembles a kindofEden, a piece ofnatureabanin doned by man and leftto flourish lush silence. Manywho triedto enter perished because, unlike the three heroes, they did not understandor take seriouslythe threeBiblical virand hope. Although tuesoflove,faith, do not realize their the protagonists cherisheddreams,theydo manage to leave safely and much wiser. The three characters- Stalker, Writer, - meditateupon those and Professor mankindhas tried to which problems solve for centuries. Althoughsome criticssee in the filma discussion of the roleofart in easternEurope,this is shortsighted and ignores the philosophical foundationof writers like Chekov and Dostoyevskywho supply the inspirationfor Tarkovhas said, Tarkovsky sky'scharacters.

"The Zone is not a territory, but,on a trialwhichone either the contrary, depends passes or fails. Everything on self-dignity, on how farone is able to distinguish betweentheimportant and the transitory." The three heroes in Stalker pass the test. Having neared the room where every desire becomes true, they give up their small egotistical and return ambitions totheblackand whiteworldofdailylife. Here,too,the audience gets a surprise,since the worn-outwife of Stalker, who has never been in the "Zone," gives a and volunmonologue on suffering tary dedication. Her speech recalls Tolstoy and Dostoyevskyand this may be the hidden key to Tarkovsky's success; he is not ashamed to moralizeor preach ofartas a catharsis. Ata timewhenmostcinemafuncTartions solely as entertainment, kovskyshakes people to the core of their souls. He practices the oldfashioned idea of the artist as and as creator. messiah,as confessor, This articleoriginally appearedin the Germanmagazine,Medium , and has been translated by the author. films aredistributed FourofTarkovsky's in theU.S. MyNameis IvanandAndrei from Corinth Rublev areavailable Films, is Stalker 410 East62ndSt.,NYC10021; NewYorker availablefrom Films,16 W. is 61st St., NYC 10023;and Nostalghia availablefrom Communications, Grange 45 W.60thSt.,NYC10023. 29

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