"Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film" – Ingmar Bergman
If cinema has to list the names of those filmmakers who pushed the envelope of cinema and elevated it to another dimension, only great names are going to find a place there. Surely, the name of Andrei Tarkovsky is one of those names. Andrei Tarkovsky was a Russian filmmaker and opera director, unanimously counted among the real greats of world cinema. He made films, all of which are considered classics of cinema. The films of Andrei Tarkovsky often included metaphysical themes, spiritual questions and the eternal search for truth. They are characterized by his own inimitable style including long takes and dialogues reflecting on the nature of life. Notable films include Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Nostalgia and Mirror. Again, this Sunday (Dec 8, 2013) as a part of the world cinema retrospective, Enlighten Film Society screened three of the most notable films by Andrei Tarkovsky. The first feature film, Ivan’s Childhood was soon followed by Andrei Rublev and Solaris. After watching the films, it is most appropriate to take a look back at those masterpieces and the meaning which Tarkovsky intended to express through each one of them.
This was the first full-length feature film by Andrei Tarkovsky and brought him worldwide-acclaim and international recognition. One of those early feature films which actually looked at the human cost of war and did not glorify war experience. Ivan’s Childhood is the story of an orphan boy who wants to join the Russian forces so that he could avenge the death of his mother and sister from the Germans.
Based on the 1957 short story by Vladimir Bogomolov, this was also one of the most-commercially successful films by Andrei Tarkovsky. He arrived on the international scene with much elan as Ivan’s Childhood also won the coveted Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival and the Golden Gate at San Francisco Film Festival. Personalities such as Ingmar Bergman and Jean Paul Sartre praised the film and called it a unique and beautiful film.
Another classic by Andrei Tarkovsky, this film was based on the great Russian 15th Century icon painter Andrei Rublev. The movie essentially tries to capture the essence of art and how an artist responds to the tragedies and questions of faith, so that his work finds real and everlasting meaning for the ages to come. Andrei Rublev portrayed the realistic portrait of medieval Russia and expressed Christianity as the important element of Russian historic identity.
Andrei Rublev starts with the notion that art exists not because the world is perfect. It exists for the reason that the world is imperfect and we are always looking for solutions. This was Tarkovsky’s vision that suffering is essential to great art in all forms, and by going through it only one can truly experience the meaning of life. Andrei Rublev was screened at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival and won FIPRESCI prize. The film is essentially the story of three monks Andrei, Danil and Kirill. Andrei is humanitarian who wants to inspire people. Danil is more concerned with self-realization rather than painting. Kirill is shown as a man who is jealous and intelligent, but the lacks talent. The whole film is about the journey of an artist through suffering which makes him eventually realize the clearer understanding of life.
If there is another science-fiction film which is considered on the same bar as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is Solaris. This Russian science-fiction film is actually a meditative psychological-drama about a space station orbiting a fictional planet called Solaris. Based on the book, which was originally a story of communicating with other species, Tarkovsky’s adaptation is mainly a drama of grief, loss of love and recovery.
The story involves a psychologist who is sent to a space station to find out what has happened there which has caused the crew to lose their minds. On arriving there, he starts experiencing the same situations, which ultimately makes him discover and realize the meaning of his own life and connection with the past. The film was widely-acclaimed and won the Grand Prix Special Du Jury prize at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. Tarkovsky deliberately made the character psychologically-complex and the narrative was kept at a moderate pace, which was in contrast with the excessively fast-paced sci-fi films made at that time. Solaris also enjoys the distinction of one of the greatest science-fiction films in the history of cinematography. A genuine masterpiece from Andrei Tarkovsky‘s genius.