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Help with Tarkovsky

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Help with Tarkovsky

#1

Post by maxwelldeux »

I finished my 4th Tarkovsky film yesterday, and I just don't get him. And I'm not sure if it's me (like I'm missing something) or if it's something simple as my tastes and his style don't align. And since I know there are a few people around here who like Tarkovsky, I'm hoping for some insight to make me understand and appreciate him better.

Here's what I've seen:
Stalker - 8/10
Solaris - 7/10
The Mirror - 6/10
Andrei Rublev - 4/10

In general, the cinematography in these films is amazing. Stalker is my favorite of the bunch, as I liked the plot and felt the tension build throughout the movie. Solaris I was pretty ambivalent about, but the cinematography was so cool in that it got me up to a 7. Mirror is what I watched yesterday, and I was just bored with it. Rublev suffered from the double whammy of being super long and on a subject I actively dislike.

So what insights do y'all have? If you like Tarkovsky, why? If you don't, why not?
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#2

Post by mathiasa »

No insights here, it's just cool stuff. Don't try to get him. Watch Ivan's Childhood, it's straight forward.
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#3

Post by xianjiro »

more weed, less thought
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#4

Post by maxwelldeux »

@mathiasa: Thanks for the rec - I'll make that one my next Tarkovsky.

@xianjiro: You know, I hadn't really thought to do that. That's my method for getting through the Sharknado films, but never thought to apply it to Tarkovsky.
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#5

Post by OldAle1 »

Have you seen much Bergman? Tarkovsky adored Bergman and was clearly significantly influenced by him, and when I got into Tarkovsky myself through a friend - this was in the late 80s just after Tarkovsky's death and a period when virtually nothing of his was on video - my friend suggested that Bergman was like an "entryway" to Tarkovsky, which I agree with to some extent. I think films like Tystnaden and Persona especially have some relevance to the issues Tarkosky repeatedly explored.

As for me, though I no longer would class him as my outright #1 - I've come to the conclusion that it's silly and pointless (for me) to try to rank directors 1, 2, 3 etc - he's still the most "perfect" in some ways; I love all of his features as much as I can love much of anything, though perhaps Ivan is a little more conventional and therefore not quite on the level of the films that followed. It helped enormously to have seen all of the films in the cinema - and all but Offret were seen first in the cinema - but I just re-watched Stalker a couple of months ago and it was just as amazing as it was 25+ years ago. I really dig his philosophical ruminations, and it's strange because any other director making a film that is as dialogue-heavy as Stalker would seem turgid and pretentious to me, but for whatever reason it works. His incredible sense of the visual and the aural is certainly a big part of it - no other filmmaker to my mind has as intuitive a grasp of how to make something look and sound beautiful, consistently over the course of hours. And the acting in his films doesn't get talked about enough, apart from the usual praise for Anatoliy Solonitsyn. Natalya Bondarchuk's performance in Solyaris is also one for the ages, and all of the child performances in his films are great as well.

He has his flaws for sure - an almost medieval attitude about women sometimes is probably my biggest problem with him, though Bondarchuk in Solyaris goes a long way towards mediating that concern (but certainly not negating it). But there's no other director who I've loved for as long and so consistently - of course it helps that he only managed to make seven features, if he'd made 25 I'm sure there would be more lows along with the highs.
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#6

Post by monk-time »

My theory is that you have to have at least a small religious/spiritual bone in you to be able to enjoy Tarkovsky. If you are like me and know it's not for you, it might be a lost battle. All his stuff is so thoroughly infe... infused with that worldview that it's very hard to enjoy the beautiful images if one is allergic to that.

Being religious was very edgy and daring in the late USSR, almost antiauthoritarian. Sadly, nowadays with news like this one we've made a full U-turn, and I'm not even sure I can rewatch Stalker without bursting a blood vessel.
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#7

Post by Onderhond »

6/10 for a film you were just bored with? That's pretty generous :)
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#8

Post by OldAle1 »

monk-time on Jan 14 2018, 05:19:51 PM wrote:My theory is that you have to have at least a small religious/spiritual bone in you to be able to enjoy Tarkovsky.
I don't know about that. Speaking for myself - and my friend who introduced me to Tarkovsky had a similar set of attitudes/values - I've never been remotely religious, and (perhaps too proudly) proclaimed myself an atheist when I was in third grade. Now, I have moments I suppose where I have spiritual longings or something, sometimes I'm not even really aware of them until something in my life makes me reflect on them - but I've never for a second believed in the existence of a God of any kind, and in fact at the time I got into film and Tarkovsky I was much more contemptuous of religion and believers than I am now (though the past couple of years have perhaps brought more of my cynicism back). I don't find it that hard to get into the Tarkovskian world view I guess - but it may also help that I grew up on science fiction and fantasy of many stripes, and certainly those are also entries into some of Tarkovsky's work, much as he would deny the value of "genre".

That link you posted is very scary, alas similar crap is infesting this country as well at an ever-increasing and alarming rate.

Time for it all to go away and let the squirrels take over.
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#9

Post by mathiasa »

Onderhond on Jan 14 2018, 05:31:48 PM wrote:6/10 for a film you were just bored with? That's pretty generous :)
That‘s how fucking good Tarkovsky is!
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#10

Post by flaiky »

monk-time on Jan 14 2018, 05:19:51 PM wrote:My theory is that you have to have at least a small religious/spiritual bone in you to be able to enjoy Tarkovsky. If you are like me and know it's not for you, it might be a lost battle. All his stuff is so thoroughly infe... infused with that worldview that it's very hard to enjoy the beautiful images if one is allergic to that.
I don't agree with this either. I'm chronically sceptical of anything beyond the physical but I love Tarkovsky. It's probably necessary to be a philosophical person who enjoys existential poetical musings,* but unless this counts as a type of spirituality then I think you're wrong.

*that's not to say everyone who enjoys these things enjoys Tark, but I can't imagine someone with zero interest in examining the human state would dig him.
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#11

Post by funkybusiness »

I find it interesting that Ivan's Childhood wasn't even supposed to be his film, it was originally a film about how Great the Great Patriotic War was and how terrible the Nazis were, by Eduard Abalov, who left the project, and They thought Tarkovsky directed children well because of his diploma film, The Steamroller and the Violin. Tarkovsky of course then filmed it substantially different than was originally intended to ruminate more on human(ity) values and so on. really I don't remember much about Nazis in it at all 'xcept the ending (which, along with the well scene, is one of those truly haunting, memorable moments Tarkovsky can spin together with image, sound and set design (and some decent performances).)
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#12

Post by maxwelldeux »

OldAle1 on Jan 14 2018, 05:07:20 PM wrote:Have you seen much Bergman? Tarkovsky adored Bergman and was clearly significantly influenced by him, and when I got into Tarkovsky myself through a friend - this was in the late 80s just after Tarkovsky's death and a period when virtually nothing of his was on video - my friend suggested that Bergman was like an "entryway" to Tarkovsky, which I agree with to some extent. I think films like Tystnaden and Persona especially have some relevance to the issues Tarkosky repeatedly explored.

As for me, though I no longer would class him as my outright #1 - I've come to the conclusion that it's silly and pointless (for me) to try to rank directors 1, 2, 3 etc - he's still the most "perfect" in some ways; I love all of his features as much as I can love much of anything, though perhaps Ivan is a little more conventional and therefore not quite on the level of the films that followed. It helped enormously to have seen all of the films in the cinema - and all but Offret were seen first in the cinema - but I just re-watched Stalker a couple of months ago and it was just as amazing as it was 25+ years ago. I really dig his philosophical ruminations, and it's strange because any other director making a film that is as dialogue-heavy as Stalker would seem turgid and pretentious to me, but for whatever reason it works. His incredible sense of the visual and the aural is certainly a big part of it - no other filmmaker to my mind has as intuitive a grasp of how to make something look and sound beautiful, consistently over the course of hours. And the acting in his films doesn't get talked about enough, apart from the usual praise for Anatoliy Solonitsyn. Natalya Bondarchuk's performance in Solyaris is also one for the ages, and all of the child performances in his films are great as well.

He has his flaws for sure - an almost medieval attitude about women sometimes is probably my biggest problem with him, though Bondarchuk in Solyaris goes a long way towards mediating that concern (but certainly not negating it). But there's no other director who I've loved for as long and so consistently - of course it helps that he only managed to make seven features, if he'd made 25 I'm sure there would be more lows along with the highs.
I've seen the same amount of Bergman (Persona, Fanny & Alexander, Winter Light, Wild Strawberries) and loved them all - I might rank Stalker above Winter Light, but the other Bergmans above Stalker. Bergman has just seemed to resonate with me - the pacing and general feel to his movies keep me in rapt attention, which is something I haven't quite captured with Tarkovsky. I have the Seventh Seal arriving (hopefully) soon at the library, which will be good to see.

And thanks for your perspective on Tarkovsky - I want to rewatch a couple of these at some point, and this will be a nice way to approach them.
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#13

Post by maxwelldeux »

mathiasa on Jan 14 2018, 05:38:46 PM wrote:
Onderhond on Jan 14 2018, 05:31:48 PM wrote:6/10 for a film you were just bored with? That's pretty generous :)
That‘s how fucking good Tarkovsky is!
Heh. I mean, that's kinda the answer - didn't find the plot all that intriguing, but the cinematography was so good that I was focusing on that.
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#14

Post by monk-time »

@OldAle1 @flaiky: well, there goes my theory. :)
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#15

Post by funkybusiness »

from Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema: on wrote:Emboldened by the triumph of Ivan’s Childhood, Tarkovskii embarked on a project of unprecedented thematic and stylistic
daring—Andrei Rublev (1964–1966), which can be viewed as the director’s credo. Rather than attempting a standard biopic of the icon painter Rublev (1360–1430) of whom only scarce factual information is available, Tarkovskii created a parable of the artist as a captive of time whose mission it is to transcend societal boundaries. In the resulting three-hour epic, Russia’s medieval genius never once is shown at work, suggesting that the creative act itself lies beyond cinematic re-creation. The film’s ascetic black-and-white imagery, with hypnotic rhythmic fluency, evokes an authentic period atmosphere interspersed only by eruptions of apocalyptic violence. The artist’s mission to create cultural-spiritual values and uphold them even in the face of grave barbarity is given universal validity.
Tarkovskii had to endure years of exhausting struggles to save the essential components of his film from unending censorial intrusions. After a brief release in 1969, Andrei Rublev was withdrawn from theaters and re-released in 1971. The film was legendary among international cineastes long before its international distribution in 1973 and further enhanced the filmmaker’s reputation as a living classic filmmaker.
and then the author says some stuff about how Solaris is pretty good but he didn't like Mirror of Stalker at all and then
from Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema: on wrote:His last picture, Sacrifice (Offret, 1986), was made in Sweden with funds of the Svenska Filminstitutet. At the time, Tarkovskii knew he was suffering from a terminal illness and thus conceived the picture as a testament, ending it with a dedication to his youngest son. Reaching back to an idea expressed in Andrei Rublev, the artist is the one person capable of saving the world—if only he realizes his calling and sacrifices himself by cutting all social ties.
and then
Tarkovskii is one of the few Russian filmmakers of the postwar period who created a recognizable poetics. The world of his films is permeated with reappearing motifs of hope such as trees, water, fire, wind, and bells, as well as artifact quotes from the world’s humanistic heritage. Indeed, Tarkovskii took the realization of his personal, subjective, and sometimes mystical vision to an extreme level that was unprecedented in Soviet cinema and incompatible with its collectivist, materialist assumptions. Like few other directors, he freed himself from the ties of narrative conventions and became one of the most enigmatic filmmakers whose apocalyptic parables continue to challenge regular viewers, film critics, and philosophers alike. His poles of orientation were the majestic intensity, unhurried narration, and spiritual searching of Robert Bresson, Akira Kurosawa, and Ingmar Bergman. To understand the enormity of Tarkovskii’s aesthetic deviation from the mainstream, it is necessary to realize what the common parameters of Soviet film production were. None of Tarkovskii’s pictures—not even his diploma and debut film—show an iota of the officially required Party-mindedness, ideological commitment, or “popular spirit.” Rather, Tarkovskii developed a highly personal alternative to the official worldview that with each picture became more and more apparent and disconcerting for Soviet officialdom.

Tarkovskii is generally seen as a poet and a philosopher of cinema whose personal example of uncompromising artistic courage has become exemplary in itself. However, for Tarkovskii, cinema was neither “poetry” nor “philosophy,” although his films contain elements of both. Rather, as expressed in his writings, film is a medium of spirituality, and the filmmaker’s highest mission is the discovery of a spiritual dimension through cinematic means, be it in nature or society, family or the individual. Unlike the majority of his colleagues, Tarkovskii cared little about politics, although the bureaucratic control network of the Communist Party and the Soviet state caused endless frustration to this filmmaker whose unabashed individualism, self-conscious dignity, and pride were a constant provocation to the authorities. Tarkovskii thematized artistry and its metaphysics in several of his pictures, most prominently in Andrei Rublev, Nostalgia, and Sacrifice, where the artist appears as a quasi prophet, miraculously, or divinely, chosen and inspired, his work not fully explicable through rational concepts. At the same time, society—regardless of its name, self-image, and epoch—is an agent of materialism, power, and crude suppression of the spiritual, an agent that the artist has to resist in order to fulfill his calling.
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#16

Post by tirefeet »

I've seen Rublev like 3 or 4 times, it's just my thing since I have a fascination for medieval times and love Tarkovsky's approach to filmmaking. Tarko demonstrated his unique touch to capture the era, hardly anything else is remotely similar to it. You can maybe make an argument for Marketa Lazarova that it's in similar vein, which I also liked and seen probably 3 times.

But I gotta admit that my first exposure Tarkovsky was not smooth at all like most, it took me several sit throughs to truly appreciate him. If I would have an advice to someone who's just about to start watching his films, I would recommend them Ivan and Stalker.
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#17

Post by Ivan0716 »

tirefeet on Jan 14 2018, 06:54:14 PM wrote:I've seen Rublev like 3 or 4 times, it's just my thing since I have a fascination for medieval times and love Tarkovsky's approach to filmmaking. Tarko demonstrated his unique touch to capture the era, hardly anything else is remotely similar to it. You can maybe make an argument for Marketa Lazarova that it's in similar vein, which I also liked and seen probably 3 times.
The resemblances are definitely there, especially with the narrative structure. If I'm honest I don't think I would have enjoyed Andrei Rublev as much as I did if it hadn't reminded me so much of Marketa Lazarova.
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#18

Post by sol »

maxwelldeux on Jan 14 2018, 02:34:16 PM wrote:Here's what I've seen:
Stalker - 8/10
Solaris - 7/10
The Mirror - 6/10
Andrei Rublev - 4/10
If you have only seen Solaris once, that's a damn high score. It is not an easy film, and I actually gave it a 5/10 myself upon first watch. Five viewings later though and the film sits comfortably inside my all-time top 200. The pacing and non-spectacular nature of the film takes a bit of getting used to, but between the fantastic lead performance, haunting music and resonating ending, there is really little else like it in the science fiction movie realm. The special effects near the end, in fact, are all the more effective (upon repeat viewing) because the rest of the film features so little in the way of special effects.

I'm also a big fan of Stalker and if these two are your favourite Tarkovsky films, you simply have to see The Sacrifice. Similar pacing, similar science-fictiony story slant, very well acted and magnificently photography as per Tarkovsky par.

The only other Tarkovsky that I have seen is Ivan's Childhood, which has some simply breathtaking photography, but I would certainly place it on a lower tier than the other three that I have seen from him. I have been told that Andrei Rublev is the least like Solaris and Stalker from his filmography, which is really off-putting. Mirror intrigues me a bit, but it's not a high priority at the moment.
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#19

Post by weirdboy »

Since I have first seen it, I keep recalling the amazing tracking shot at the end of Nostalghia. I don't think the entire film is perfect by any stretch, but that last scene in the pool is perhaps my favorite thing that he put on film.



Second place goes to the scene where they make the bell in Andrei Rublev. That scene is up there with the ship going over the mountain from Fitzcarraldo as one of the greatest engineering feats ever put on film.
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#20

Post by Reflect »

You're probably better off checking out Ivan's Childhood next rather than The Sacrifice, It may appeal to you more.
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#21

Post by Fergenaprido »

It's my goal to complete Tarkovsky's filmography, but I'm doing it in chronological order. I've only seen The Killers (7.2), Steamroller and the Violin (7.6), and Ivan's Childhood (8.4) thus far. Saw Ivan this year, and I absolutely loved it; don't know why I put it off for so long.

As for the comparison with Bergman, I haven't noticed that, but I've only seen a smattering of his films and they're all over the place: Cries and Whispers (6.2), Wild Strawberries (7.4), The Virgin Spring (7.6), and The Seventh Seal (8.2)

Next up for Tarkovsky will be Andrey Rublov this year. Not sure where to go next with Bergman, but Fanny & Alexander has been on my watchlist for a while.
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#22

Post by cinewest »

Lot's of good advice, here. RedHawk makes the best recommendation for you, film wise, and funkybusiness has provided some good background.

Speaking from personal experience as one who also felt an immediate affinity with Bergman (I still think he has made more great films than any other filmmaker), but struggled with Tarkovsky (and still do to some extent), I would say that many unique and outstanding directors can be an acquired taste (or not), and this has definitely been true for me.

Directors I struggled with the first time I have seen their films have often become favorites once I found my way into the way they were working, and it's the same for directors I might not have been able to relate to at one time in my life, who upon rediscovery, often years later, finally struck a chord.

In both cases, it was I who changed. And it has worked the opposite way, as well (many filmmakers I found interesting when I was younger seem to do very little for me now).

But, my opinions about a filmmaker (even a touted one) don't always turn around, as sometimes a filmmaker does just not appeal or speak to my own sensibilities, no matter how open I try to be.

It might help to read more about Tarkovsky- what his interests and intentions were, etc., as well as about how he approached working with the medium of film.

One of the reasons we go to school, and study with teachers when we are young is that they not only show us how to "get" certain things, but also how to appreciate them, and personally speaking, I don't think we need ever be too old to learn about something we may just not be familiar with.
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#23

Post by Cynical Cinephile »

Tarkovsky is one of those filmmakers that I appreciate more than I like (kind of). I think my first film of his was Solaris and I had a very similar reaction to you. Visually incredible, but I couldn't get into the film itself. Next up was Stalker, which I liked more, but still felt was too slow. I found myself thinking about and enjoying thinking about it than actually watching it. I felt similarly of Mirror and Nostalghia. Ivan's Childhood didn't blow me away either, but for different reasons.

However, both The Sacrifice and Andrei Rublev did blow me away to stratosphere, the latter one especially. It's easily one of the greatest films I've ever seen. Quotes that funkybusinness shared about these films are exactly why I loved them so much. In a weird way, both of these films are autobiographies.
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#24

Post by St. Gloede »

monk-time on Jan 14 2018, 05:19:51 PM wrote:My theory is that you have to have at least a small religious/spiritual bone in you to be able to enjoy Tarkovsky. If you are like me and know it's not for you, it might be a lost battle. All his stuff is so thoroughly infe... infused with that worldview that it's very hard to enjoy the beautiful images if one is allergic to that.

Being religious was very edgy and daring in the late USSR, almost antiauthoritarian. Sadly, nowadays with news like this one we've made a full U-turn, and I'm not even sure I can rewatch Stalker without bursting a blood vessel.
Like others I have to reject that notion, though people have referred to the same hypothesis before. I am in no way spiritually or religiously inclined, nor was I raised in a religious environment (Norway, majority atheist/agnostic) - and Stalker is arguably my favorite film, and Tarkovsky is among my top 10 director. Though "atheists" Godard, Bunuel and Pasolini are above him.

I don't think you need to be spiritually inclined to appreciate poetry, or spiritually inclined philosophy. The agnosticism and religious struggle of Bergman is for instance incredibly thought provoking, and Tarkovsky's philosophy and poetry is not forceful in it's spirituality, and can easily be seen as wants, needs and explorations, etc. (not that it needs to be interpreted in any other way than intended, but it can be powerful as it can speak to so many different parts of your own self).

Going back to the original question, there are many ways to begin to understand Tarkovsky, and perhaps the philosophical angle isn't quite it. Going in wanting to interpret each aspect of it is usually not the right way to do it, especially with Tarkovsky, who plays a lot more on feelings and the "elusive" rather than an absolute concrete message he wants you to scribble down on a paper.

One option is to enter through the eyes of his craft, and try to understand his form. One of the most interesting things is his perspective on time, and how he utilizes time through long shots to truly capture your attention, focus you in, feel time and make small things feel large and important. Add craft and form together, and you might start sensing his poetry and through that too his philosophy.

Edit: One of the easiest methods if you are struggling is also to start with Ivan's Childhood, or even The Steamroller and the Violin, or move from there. Is early work is not as elusive and far more accessible - and will allow you to understand the transformation in his work.
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#25

Post by Onderhond »

maxwelldeux on Jan 14 2018, 06:40:00 PM wrote:Heh. I mean, that's kinda the answer - didn't find the plot all that intriguing, but the cinematography was so good that I was focusing on that.
Okay, that explains it. Would never call it "boring" because of that though :)
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#26

Post by cinephage »

I personally think the plot is almost secondary, when watching a Tarkovsky picture. I mostly get carried by the visual poetry and intensity of certain sequences. Then, usually once the movie is over, I like to examine what the story actually was, in some cases it's pretty easy (the Sacrifice, Ivan's Childhood), in others it's almost impossible (the mirror), but it's only as a way to enrich my initial viewing pleasure with an intellectual approach. Initially, i try to watch these films as if I was staring at the sea, to enjoy a wonderful scenery, and let a poet pull me into his magnificent worldview.
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#27

Post by Cynical Cinephile »

I agree, it's just one of those things...If it clicks, it becomes a very profound viewing. If it doesn't, you get bored very easily.
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#28

Post by 3eyes »

I think The Sacrifice was the first one I saw, on VHS. Andrei Rublev was the one I found most accessible, though I ended up looking for horses, which are in nearly every frame it seems. So I look for horses in all his films.
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#29

Post by mathiasa »

3eyes on Jan 15 2018, 08:59:36 AM wrote:I think The Sacrifice was the first one I saw, on VHS. Andrei Rublev was the one I found most accessible, though I ended up looking for horses, which are in nearly every frame it seems. So I look for horses in all his films.
I look for water. There was lots of water in Nostalghia.
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#30

Post by mathiasa »

xianjiro on Jan 14 2018, 02:51:50 PM wrote:more weed, less thought
Very wise words! Also works with the other spiritual vsky guy - Jodorowsky.
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#31

Post by micmacs »

I first got into Tarkovsky to impress a girl in my class. She was the smartest girl I've ever known and was pretty much into films so I looked for "obscure cult directors" cause you know.. kids.

Luckly there was an exhibition of his filmography in my city going on. The first I saw was Ivan's, I remember liking it but was not that impressed at first. And then, brother, came The Mirror and It changed my life. It was unlike anything I've seen, the photography, the acting, the dialogues and poems throughout the film. It resonated in me. Mirror was the main reason I dropped everything I was doing (at the time medical school) and went to film school. My final paper was on The Mirror, Tarkovsky and his relation to the Socialist realism movement at the time through a historical and biographical point of view. And the funny thing is, the more you read Tarkovsky and read about him, you understand everybody kinda feel the same way. There's no actual point in trying to understand it completely like as if it was a charade ready to be answered, it's more a matter of feeling it. The philosophical questions are there to linger inside you and not transform you at once, for me watching his films is to bring up more questions than answers and that's the main reason why I absolutely adore his work. I've seen all of his films multiple times and each one of them I feel something different, I find myself thinking about different topics and/or different moments of my life.
Tarkovsky said once he tried to recreate exactly the same ambient he grew up as he remembered, because he said if he were true to his memories others would understand and see that truth and that would be enough for people to connect with it.

Anyway, I could go on about Tarkovsky for ages. He is a true master, and even though I came to like and respect the work of other directors along the years, his work will always hold a very special place in my heart.


There used to be a fan made website called nostalghia.com with plenty of information on his works and his life. It seems to be offline, let's hope it's just temporary.
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#32

Post by Ivan0716 »

micmacs on Jan 15 2018, 12:01:53 PM wrote:I first got into Tarkovsky to impress a girl in my class. She was the smartest girl I've ever known and was pretty much into films so I looked for "obscure cult directors" cause you know.. kids.

Luckly there was an exhibition of his filmography in my city going on. The first I saw was Ivan's, I remember liking it but was not that impressed at first. And then, brother, came The Mirror and It changed my life. It was unlike anything I've seen, the photography, the acting, the dialogues and poems throughout the film. It resonated in me. Mirror was the main reason I dropped everything I was doing (at the time medical school) and went to film school. My final paper was on The Mirror, Tarkovsky and his relation to the Socialist realism movement at the time through a historical and biographical point of view. And the funny thing is, the more you read Tarkovsky and read about him, you understand everybody kinda feel the same way. There's no actual point in trying to understand it completely like as if it was a charade ready to be answered, it's more a matter of feeling it. The philosophical questions are there to linger inside you and not transform you at once, for me watching his films is to bring up more questions than answers and that's the main reason why I absolutely adore his work. I've seen all of his films multiple times and each one of them I feel something different, I find myself thinking about different topics and/or different moments of my life.
Tarkovsky said once he tried to recreate exactly the same ambient he grew up as he remembered, because he said if he were true to his memories others would understand and see that truth and that would be enough for people to connect with it.

Anyway, I could go on about Tarkovsky for ages. He is a true master, and even though I came to like and respect the work of other directors along the years, his work will always hold a very special place in my heart.


There used to be a fan made website called nostalghia.com with plenty of information on his works and his life. It seems to be offline, let's hope it's just temporary.
So what happened with the girl, don''t leave us hanging.
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#33

Post by OldAle1 »

micmacs on Jan 15 2018, 12:01:53 PM wrote:I first got into Tarkovsky to impress a girl in my class. She was the smartest girl I've ever known and was pretty much into films so I looked for "obscure cult directors" cause you know.. kids.

Luckly there was an exhibition of his filmography in my city going on. The first I saw was Ivan's, I remember liking it but was not that impressed at first. And then, brother, came The Mirror and It changed my life. It was unlike anything I've seen, the photography, the acting, the dialogues and poems throughout the film. It resonated in me. Mirror was the main reason I dropped everything I was doing (at the time medical school) and went to film school. My final paper was on The Mirror, Tarkovsky and his relation to the Socialist realism movement at the time through a historical and biographical point of view. And the funny thing is, the more you read Tarkovsky and read about him, you understand everybody kinda feel the same way. There's no actual point in trying to understand it completely like as if it was a charade ready to be answered, it's more a matter of feeling it. The philosophical questions are there to linger inside you and not transform you at once, for me watching his films is to bring up more questions than answers and that's the main reason why I absolutely adore his work. I've seen all of his films multiple times and each one of them I feel something different, I find myself thinking about different topics and/or different moments of my life.
Tarkovsky said once he tried to recreate exactly the same ambient he grew up as he remembered, because he said if he were true to his memories others would understand and see that truth and that would be enough for people to connect with it.

Anyway, I could go on about Tarkovsky for ages. He is a true master, and even though I came to like and respect the work of other directors along the years, his work will always hold a very special place in my heart.


There used to be a fan made website called nostalghia.com with plenty of information on his works and his life. It seems to be offline, let's hope it's just temporary.
Your first post here and it's a beaut, micmacs. Welcome and hope you stick around!

Really lovely stuff and yeah, it really is like nothing else, especially on first viewing. Mine was Offret on VHS, I think in the winter of 1989-90 (or maybe one year earlier) and I still distinctly remember the experience. I sat on the floor in front of my 27" TV and I didn't start the film until around midnight for some reason; it was bitterly cold outside and there was a thick layer of snow and ice. I watched it absolutely enraptured, virtually unmoving for 2 1/2 hours, and not only did this very "slow" film wake me up, I felt I had to get out into nature and sort of "commune with the cosmos" or something, and I remember I took a walk - 2:30 or 3 in the morning this was - out to Lake Michigan, frozen over with chunks of ice, windy and very cold, not a soul around, and I remember looking at the lights of Chicago 10 or 12 miles south, dim in the mist, and feeling both alone and connected with everybody all at once. Still to this day it must be one of the 10 or so most memorable film experiences I've had and maybe the only one experienced on VHS.

I'm assuming you've read his book Sculpting in Time? That'd be something I'd recommend to anyone interested in delving deeper and trying to understand him more - as much as he can be understood.
Last edited by OldAle1 on January 15th, 2018, 7:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#34

Post by micmacs »

@Ivan067,
haha we ended up dating for a few months, but after I moved to another city and she continued med school we ended up being just friends, and are very good ones until today.

@OldAle1,
What a wonderful story. I believe very few directors have the power to evoke such powerful feelings.
You know, Jonas Mekas said something that might sound a little bit pretentious but I think it applies here. He said "More than 90 per cent of people do not like films, they like stories", and that's pretty much the case with some of Tarkovsky's work, right?

And oh yes! It's a must read for all Tarkovsky's fans and cinema lovers I guess. Another read that was very interesting were his diaries, he truly breathed and lived for his works.

I belive you probably have seen them but that are a couple of films I would like to recommend:
Tempo di viaggio (1983)
Moskovskaya elegiya (1987)

And if you're really interested that are some reading materials that I would also like to recommend:
Andrey Tarkovsky's - Poetics of Cinema by Tommas Redwood
Andrey Tarkovsky - Interviews by John Gianvito
Tarkovsky, Bergman, Sokurov, Kubrick, and Wong Kar-wai - Films and Dreams
Natasha Synessios - Mirror
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#35

Post by Good_Will_Harding »

I can't necessarily attest to fully grasping or understanding the deeper metaphysical or spiritual meanings in all of his works - though those elements are usually so central and prevalent to the content of the film that it's hard to avoid them - but speaking only for myself, my interest in the films of Tarkovsky is mostly on the front of pure spectacle and wonderment. His films might seem pretty cold and isolating at first glance, but once you warm up to the whole mood and style they're going for, it becomes easy to get lost in them and just go along with the whole experience.

Regrettably, most of his stuff has only been available to see in relatively middling audio/visual quality until quite recently (though Criterion has been doing their part to ensure that his top trier stuff gets proper hi-def releases) and in my earlier, formative years of getting into film (which really started a little over a decade ago) I had to resort to watching his films on less-than-desirable conditions like on Google Video or getting the middling quality DVD's from Netflix. Now that his works seem to be getting more appropriate home video releases, it'll be possible to experience them close to how they were truly meant to be seen. I already give all three of his 70's output 10/10, but if I was ever so fortunate as to be able to see them on the big screen, any one of them could easily jump even higher onto my personal favorites list, and same goes for the rest of his works as well.

This is a good video that helps explain the appeal of Tarkovsky and explores the unifying themes of all his films: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak6rI-j07QU
Last edited by Good_Will_Harding on January 15th, 2018, 10:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#36

Post by maxwelldeux »

I'm not not responding to this thread - I'm just not responding, if that makes sense.

This is a great discussion and really helpful. I've read every word in this thread. And it means my watchlist for the March Russian challenge is getting loaded with Tarkovsky. So thank you all for the insight!
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#37

Post by joachimt »

maxwelldeux on Jan 15 2018, 04:38:57 PM wrote:I'm not not responding to this thread - I'm just not responding, if that makes sense.

This is a great discussion and really helpful. I've read every word in this thread. And it means my watchlist for the March Russian challenge is getting loaded with Tarkovsky. So thank you all for the insight!
Just take it easy. Don't binge-watch Tarkovsky.
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#38

Post by Carmel1379 »

I can second the video GWH recommended. "Poetic harmony" is a nice title, it synthesises the different strands intertwining in his work: memories, dreams, an "aesthetic world-view" (which is an awful banal statement, but it's applicable), and "spirituality", conceived in a sense that is absolutely disparate to "religiosity" and "conviction". 'Mysticism' could be another term to throw in.

But clearly since you gave an 8/10 to 'Stalker', maxwell, you must've had some 'understanding' and 'connection' to the film and (hence) his style. Obviously not everything must be overwhelmingly effective (for instance I rate 'Andrei Rublev' and 'Ivan's Childhood' around 4-5/10 too, and I'd still consider myself a fair fan), and one can feel his films in intensities lower than the powerful experiences micmacs or OldAle described they had, which doesn't mean it's an any less valid response. Perhaps one'd desire that 'mindblowing', 'transformative' experience many other cinephiles have had with one or several his films, but if one didn't have it, no one can help you, because it is primarily about feeling and not articulate thematic dissection. However it's possible to appreciate his work more as you think back upon in when advancing in time, and who knows, perhaps a rewatch in a decade (or sooner, or later, or never) might do it.
Last edited by Carmel1379 on January 16th, 2018, 12:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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#39

Post by monk-time »

I seem to be the only person in this thread who does not have a deep connection with Tarkovsky's films. Huh. I didn't have this issue with Bresson's firm stoicism, with Dreyer's intense suffering, with Dardennes' humble humanity, with Of Gods and Men's joyful self-sacrificing devotion, with Bergman's self-destructive reflection; I have loved many films by those guys, especially Dardennes.

But Tarkovsky (and to a lesser extent Kieslowski)... Even ignoring his off-the-charts ego (the only human he ever filmed about is woe-is-me-the-suffering-artist himself, with every other film having a prophet/martyr as the author's stand-in), rabid science/rationality bashing (Stalker, Solaris), and a very conservative worldview that seeps through sometimes and that OldAle1 has picked up on (the opening church scene in Nostalghia, while masterfully shot, is dis-fucking-gusting in its implications re: women), there's something very cold and off-putting at the core of his films that I am very sensitive to.

I understand that it's totally possible to interact with art on one's own terms, filling it with your own meaning and ignoring the cold grip of a dead author, but I just can't. I get the same suffocating vibe from his films that I experience visiting an Orthodox church or, say, Lenin's Tomb. They're all, including the films, seem to be deliberately constructed to fill you with this deep guilt-ridden dread of a cold, repressive and callous force. Ironically it's all very authoritarian in nature, and I suspect many in the West wouldn't have enjoyed Tarkovsky's art if he had complete freedom to film what he wanted.

Sorry if it all goes against everyone's experience and enjoyment of this important director here, but I've been seriously burned once by a similar cult-like repressive bs that I always feel in his films, and can't help but feel that way. I'm glad though that other people have had a much more positive interaction with his work, and it's been a pleasure to read y'all's comments.
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#40

Post by St. Gloede »

I am not sure where you get the sense of authoritarianism and absolutism in his work, there openness and contemplative nature of his ideas is usually what makes people lose themselves in his art. The extent to which you are taking this leads me to believe that you are already reading very specific context, assumptions and pre-established belief into his work.

Nostalgia is my least favorite Tarkovsky and I never went back to it (though I am planning to now), so I don't remember the opening scene implications, but you are right, I actually thought Solyaris didn't do the handling of the female role that well either - however Zerkalo is beautiful and I think the portrait here (granted, a stand-in for Tarkovsky's mother) is incredibly nuanced and strong.

As for the assumption that he only makes films about himself, I find that utterly ridiculous, though I have heard others claim it as well. Yes, Zerkalo is about himself (well, his mother) and in it he does not come off that well. This film is also incredibly open about being about him. Most of his films do not have the suffering artist motif at the forefront, not even Zerkalo. Where do you get the idea that he only shoot "himself"?
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