> (Yes, we did have the TV on today, but it was to watch the first half
> of Tarkovsky's Solaris. Damn, that's a good movie.)
dude. Dude. DUDE. du-uude. Tarkovsky is flabbergastingly great. Did you see
"Andrei Rublev"? That dude is good.
Tarkovsky's only peer in this quadrant: Dekalog, by Kieslowski.
Bits regarding Tarkovsky, pasted from
I will never forget the first time I saw Andrei Rublev. A friend had told me
about a Tarkovsky retrospective at the Film Forum, which at the time was just
off Varick Street in lower Manhattan. I had never heard of Tarkovsky, and when I
arrived at the theater, I was surprised to find hundreds of Soho types lined up
around the block, all dressed in black, smoking Egyptian cigarettes and looking
like extras from a Fellini film. It was then that my friend informed me, "The
movie is in black and white, is three-and-a-half hours long, and in Russian with
subtitles." I entered the theater expecting the worst.
The film, about a fifteenth-century Russian icon painter, began with a peasant
taking flight in a homemade hot-air balloon, followed by a scene of a jester
being beaten senseless by soldiers, then proceeded into lengthy discussions
among various monks about art, and later portrayed an unexplained crucifixion in
a snowbound Russian village. Thirty minutes into the film, I was hopelessly
It was then, however, that I began to notice little things: the quality of light
on water droplets as horses splashed through a puddle. The play of evening
shadows on an ancient stone wall. The loveliness of birdsong, providing a
peaceful counterpoint to the horror of the blinding of a troop of artisans,
victims of internecine warfare. I did not know how to fit all the pieces
together, but I knew I was in the presence of genius, and I wanted to learn. Six
years later, I am still learning.
Put into words, many images in Tarkovsky's films seem mundane, ordinary-horses
eating a cartload of apples spilled upon the beach, a mysterious wind caressing
a field of buckwheat, a father and son planting a dead tree beside a sparkling
sea. For Tarkovsky, the world is overflowing with spontaneous perceptions. In
Tarkovsky's vision, however, these are moments of creation that act as doorways
to truth and the infinite. In his treatise on the aesthetics of cinema,
Sculpting in Time, he writes, "The image is an impression of the truth, a
glimpse of the truth permitted to us in our blindness. The incarnate image will
be faithful when its articulations are palpably the expression of truth, when
they make it unique, singular-as life itself is, even in its simplest
Throughout his remarkable career, Tarkovsky strained to portray the numinous, to
somehow glimpse the unseen through the depiction of ordinary scenes and subjects
filmed in an utterly fresh and original way. He believed in a reality beyond
that apprehended through the senses, a superabundant reality that lends an
astonishing beauty and pathos to our interactions with one another and with the
larger world. Ingmar Bergman credited Tarkovsky with the invention of "a new
language which allows him to seize hold of life as appearance, life as a dream."
Bergman also called him "the finest contemporary filmmaker." Considering the
limitations Tarkov-sky was forced to work within-the strictures of the Soviet
film industry-it is a miracle his visions ever saw the light of day.
Tarkovsky and Soviet Cinema
Before the appearance of Sergei Eisenstein in the 1920s (October, Battleship
Potemkin), Russia had contributed little to world cinema. Lenin, recognizing the
power of visual images-"of all the arts, for us the most important is
cinema"-set about to create a film industry tailored to the goals of the
revolution. A Communist Party resolution of the time stated, "Cinema can and
must occupy an important place in the process of cultural revolution as a medium
for broad educational work and communist propaganda, the organization and
education of the masses around the slogans and tasks of the Party." Toward that
end, Eisenstein developed the theory of montage, loosely based on the philosophy
of dialectical materialism. Mon-tage is achieved through the juxtaposition of
seemingly disparate images. For example, a shot of "bourgeois capitalists" cuts
to a herd of swine, then culminates in an image of the murder of unsuspecting
proletarians. Eisenstein left the synthesis of these distinct images to the mind
of the filmgoer, suspecting that intuited conclusions reached by the audience
would be more powerful than any direct indoctrination of Marxist philosophy.
The other major movement in Soviet cinema, socialist realism, was developed in
the 1930s. Socialist realism was a reaction to the perceived psychologizing and
surrealist tendencies in Western cinema. Rather than dealing with the inner
struggles of the individual, the aim of socialist realism was to set forth a
vision of Marxist utopia and to provide a model of the average citizen as
warrior for the revolution. It was in direct competition with Christianity, as
is shown in the following release from a 1928 conference on socialist realism
and the cinema:
In Church only one drama is performed and always one and the same, year in, year
out, while in the cinema next door you will be shown the Easters of heathen, Jew
and Christian, their historic sequence, with their similarity of ritual. The
cinema amuses, educates, delights the imagination by images, and liberates you
from the need of crossing the Church door. The cinema is a great competitor not
only of the public-house, but of the Church. Here is an instrument which we must
secure at all costs!
Socialist realism concentrated enormous energy toward redirecting faith in a
transcendent reality to, rather, faith in society as it would be once the goals
of Marxism were fulfilled.
Tarkovsky's Life and Work
Tarkovsky, born in 1932 into the comfortable Moscow household of Arseniy
Tarkovsky, a well-regarded poet of the people, was surrounded by works of
classical art, literature, and music. As a teenager, Andrei spent long hours
with his father, listening to Bach, gazing at books of Russian religious art,
and attending to the recitation of his father's poetry. These classical
influences, as well as a love of the woods and fields he experienced on visits
to his grandmother's dacha in the country, are foundational in all of
Tarkovsky's films. They seem to have engendered a hunger for more than could be
accounted for in the materialist philosophies put forth in Soviet art and
There is scant biographical information available on Tarkovsky. We know little
about his early experiences in the Christian faith and what led him, a member of
the intelligentsia, into the Orthodox church. What is known, however, is that by
the time his first feature film, Ivan's Childhood, was completed in 1962,
Tarkovsky had developed a deeply religious aesthetic sense. Ivan's Childhood,
the story of a twelve-year-old Russian scout on the German front in World War
II, at first glance resembles the socialist realist films of the time: a young
hero sacrifices his life in the service of the motherland. However, by using
dreams and a complex system of symbols and images in the film, many of them
Christian, Tarkovsky attempted to represent Ivan's longings for his mother
(killed by German soldiers) and his twin desires to return to the innocent
beauties of childhood and to wreak vengeance upon the enemy. Tarkovsky's
religious consciousness registered profoundly in the sensibilities of the
Russian people, yet at the same time Tarkovsky succeeded in placating the Soviet
censors by the startlingly realistic portrayal of life in wartime. Ivan's
Childhood placed Tarkovsky in the forefront of Soviet directors, as One Day in
the Life of Ivan Denisovich had propelled Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn into the
literary world the year before.
Tarkovsky's second feature, Andrei Rublev, initially met the same fate as
Solzhenitsyn's novels after Ivan Denisovich-official suppression by Soviet
authorities. Whereas the religious themes in Ivan's Childhood were cloaked in
obscure symbolism, Rublev treated the protagonist's crises of faith openly, to
the consternation of the Communist Party. Completed in 1966, Rublev would not be
released until 1971, whereupon it was described as "the most profound, most
powerful and most moving historical film ever to appear on the Russian screen."
Andrei Rublev garnered prizes in festival competitions around the world, and
subsequently has been acclaimed as "one of the top fifteen films ever made."
After Rublev, Tarkovsky was recognized worldwide as the greatest Russian
director since Eisenstein. Tarkovsky was grudgingly allowed to continue
directing, but from Rublev onward the Party exercised greater control over his
Tarkovsky often complained bitterly about the struggles he endured in his
attempts to complete each of his films in the Soviet film system. His diaries
are filled with ideas for dozens of films, but he was only able to create seven
in his twenty-five-year career, largely due to bureaucratic entanglements.
Scripts had to be approved by the official censors (Tarkovsky, however, often
altered his films significantly in the final stages), and Mosfilm, the leading
film agency, controlled the purse strings. Tarkovsky would never again receive
the epic-sized budget he had been granted for Rublev. After Rublev, Mosfilm
deliberately withheld permission for the entry of his subsequent films into most
international competitions. Yet each film, surreptitiously submitted to
festivals such as Cannes, Telluride, London, or Paris, received major prizes,
and often was awarded the highest honors.
Increasingly bewildered by his inability to receive approval for his film ideas,
Tarkovsky and his wife, Larissa, defected to the West in 1983 after completion
in Italy of his sixth film, Nostalghia. They left behind his son, Andriuschka,
and Tarkovsky devoted the rest of his life both to attempting to persuade Soviet
authorities to release his son and to completing his final film, Sacrifice, in
1986. After completing Sacrifice in Sweden, Tarkovsky learned he had a malignant
tumor. He died in Paris in December 1986.
Images and Themes in Tarkovsky's Films
Whereas Eisenstein had utilized the theories of montage to create artificial
links between images where there were none, Tarkovsky applied laws of "poetic
reasoning" to the creation of his films from Andrei Rublev onward. Tarkovsky
felt his task was to unveil relationships between images and events as created
and set into motion by God, rather than imposing relationships upon filmgoers in
order to manipulate them into a prescribed point of view. Tarkovsky was
especially drawn to the internal logic of Japanese haiku, wherein three very
different images are combined to form a whole much larger than the parts.
Concerning this circuitous method of arriving at new perceptions, Tarkovsky
wrote, "The birth and development of thought are subject to laws of their own,
and sometimes demand forms of expression which are quite different from the
patterns of logical speculation. In my view poetic reasoning is closer to the
laws by which thought develops, and thus to life itself, than is the logic of
Each of Tarkovsky's films has its own dreamlike inner coherence, but a number of
images remain constant from film to film, acting as unifying links and providing
clues to the cinematic language Tarkovsky created. In several films, for
instance, at moments of crisis a jug of milk spills onto the floor and shatters,
underscoring the splintering of heretofore comfortable domestic relationships.
Or, without warning, characters are suddenly lifted off or struck to the ground
by an invisible hand. For example, in a dream sequence at the beginning of
Ivan's Childhood, Ivan, to his delight and astonishment, is raised through the
trees and begins to fly over the Russian landscape. In Tarkovsky's final film,
Sacrifice, Otto the postman falls to the ground, then gets up and declares, "An
evil angel touched me." When characters are on the threshold of some great
moment of self-discovery or spiritual illumination, they inexplicably fall to
the ground, as if humbled by the hand of God. In several films lovers suddenly
rise into the air, levitating in the act of lovemaking.
There are no easy explanations to these images, but they seem to point to an
interpenetration of the seen and unseen worlds, visible manifestations of the
spiritual battles that are continually being waged around us. Tarkovsky refused
to limit imagination with easy explanations; he believed that deliberately
leaving his images open-ended would allow their meanings to continue to grow in
the mind of the viewer. He said, "What I'm interested in is not symbols, but
images. An image has an unlimited number of possible interpretations."
Tarkovsky's refusal to explain the inner logic of his films makes them
intriguing-and baffling. Rather than providing direct connections between
scenes, events and images, Tarkovsky relied on the laws of associative linking
to provide oblique relationships that, when added up, create a mood that strikes
the viewer on a preconscious level. Tarkovsky, however, does explore certain
themes throughout his films. I will examine three of these themes in particular.
1. Fragmented Relationships
The heroes and heroines of Tarkovsky's films are filled with intense yet unmet
longings. Ivan, having lost his family to the hands of the enemy, tries to
fulfill his yearning for his parents by latching onto the officers at the front
and by inflicting vengeance upon the Germans as a spy. Andrei Rublev takes a vow
of silence after he murders a Tartar invader in defense of a young woman, and
for the rest of his life he is alienated from God, doing acts of penance in an
attempt to find restoration with him. Kris, in Solaris, spends most of the film
attempting to make up for the personal failures that led to his wife's suicide.
The families in Mirror and Sacrifice long ago abandoned any pretense of
communication, and now live desperately in an intensely private world of verbal
Tarkovsky's parents divorced when he was a child, and his own first marriage
painfully disintegrated, events which possibly explain the pervasive lack of
hope within the relationships in his films. He repeats several techniques
throughout his films to visually express his characters' inner turmoil and
alienation. Mirrors abound in his films, and often his characters speak to one
another's mirror image rather than to each other. In carefully staged scenes,
characters stare off in different directions, aiming their words into thin air,
even though those words work into each other's hearts like daggers. Tarkovsky
often used long takes-sometimes as long as ten minutes-to follow a character
ever deeper into his own world of relational isolation.
The most notable of these long takes occurs near the end of Sacrifice when
Alexander, in fulfilling his vow to God, destroys all of his family's
possessions-an act guaranteed to separate himself from them forever. In this
shot, the camera is an impassive observer following Alexander as he burns down
his house. The family returns, horror-stricken, and Alexander is taken away in
an ambulance. In this single, seven-minute sequence, we see the violent,
irrevocable journey of a brilliant man-from a domestic, mundane existence to the
frontiers of spiritual isolation where his only solace will be God. (An
interesting note: While Tarkovsky was filming this uninterrupted take, the
camera jammed. The house had to be rebuilt from scratch and burned down again.)
2. Guilt and Loss
Throughout the film Sacrifice, one hears the sound of coins dropping onto the
floor. The protagonist, Alexander, overcome with a sense of guilt and
worthlessness, has made a wager with God: He will give up everything he
owns-even the only thing he loves in the world, his son-if God will spare the
world from impending nuclear disaster. The constant aural presence of the coins
reminds us of the tremendous cost Alexander must pay if God is to grant his
prayer to redeem the world. Alexander receives God's acknowledgment of the wager
when he experiences a vision in which he observes himself trudging through mud
where silver coins lie next to the sleeping (or dead) form of his son. The coin
scene here is reminiscent of an episode in Andrei Rublev: Monks are walking
through the mud while the church's treasury is being looted by Mongol invaders.
A sacristan is tortured and called a "Tartar-faced Judas" by the peasants, from
whom the church has stolen for generations.
In Mirror, the son has a moment of dejŠ vu when he drops a pocketful of coins,
saying, "I feel like I've been here before." Later in the film, we learn that
his father also dropped a handful of coins in a scene in which his grandmother
is selling her most precious possession-her earrings-in order to provide food
for the family. Tarkovsky uses the simple medium of coins to intimate the
bargains and sacrifices we make in our moments of desperation, reminding us of
the story of Abraham and Isaac and ultimately of the great sacrifice made on our
behalf by Christ. In making connections from film to film, the images begin to
build into a personal vision that strikes us at the heart of our own guilt and
betrayal. With a shock of recognition, we realize that Tarkovsky is telling us
that we, too, are all like Judas -that we are all accomplices in a crime of
universal magnitude and in profound need of redemption.
Tarkovsky's films are filled with specific objects and events from his own
childhood memories-ceramic milk jugs, lace curtains, children watching a barn
burn down in the rain. He believed that simple, homely images from his own life
would register deeply in the mind of the viewer, calling forth the viewer's own
subconscious childhood associations. For his autobiographical film, Mirror, he
reconstructed his grandmother's wooden dacha, and even went so far as to plant
the neighboring field in buckwheat, waiting a year for the grain to ripen in
order to recreate the landscape as he remembered it. (Such memories tend to
resonate with a greater intensity in the Russian heart, battered as it is with
the drabness of decades of socialism, than with Western audiences.) The belief
that individual memories are of inestimable value in the economy of existence
was a revolutionary idea to Tarkovsky's audience in the Soviet Union,
indoctrinated as they were to years of collectivist teaching that the individual
must be subservient to the state.
Tarkovsky wanted to call the Russian people to an examination of their national
memory as well. In Ivan's Childhood and Mirror, he interspersed newsreel footage
with narrative events, grounding the thoughts and actions of his characters in
moments of shared tragedy and grief familiar to all Russians. Scenes from the
Spanish Civil War and World War II form a backdrop of pathos to the sufferings
of the characters in these films, reminding us that the alienation and pain
experienced in his stories has been multiplied millions of times in the history
of his tortured nation.
The events that occur in Tarkovsky's films, though they are brilliant
storytelling in their own right, are merely external means that point to the
internal spiritual development of his characters. It is futile to attempt to
merely recall plots and story lines-not least because they are so complex and
ambiguous-in order to arouse interest in Tarkovsky's works; rather, it is the
images-the manipulation of the external world to portray the internal workings
of the characters-that give his films their power. We often feel as if we are
undergoing a dream, where surface events have enormous meanings that lie just
beyond our grasp yet which resonate deeply with that which lies most deeply
hidden in our own lives, aching to be exposed.
The Responsibility of the Artist
Art is not merely self-expression, but in its purest form is a selfless act of
communion. Tarkovsky believed that self-expression is meaningless unless it
meets with a response in the other. Rather than merely hearing one's own echo,
the artist seeks to create, in Tarkovsky's words, "a spiritual bond with
others." True artistic communication is neither didactic nor a soliloquy, but
occurs when we bring our longings, fears, and questions into dialogue with the
other. The artist must not only exhibit his strengths but expose his weaknesses,
for only humility can shatter the walls that separate the artist from the
patron. In Tarkovsky's opinion, it is a sacrifice on the part of the artist to
bring his doubts, bewilderment, and half-formed beliefs into the presence of
another, knowing he may be misinterpreted and misunderstood. The greatest
artists, however, have always been willing to take that chance.
In Tarkovsky's words, "The artist is always a servant, and is perpetually trying
to pay for the gift that has been given to him as if by miracle. Modern man,
however, does not want to make any sacrifice, even though true affirmation of
self can only be expressed in sacrifice." The sacrifice to which Tarkovsky
refers includes vulnerability and even humiliation before his audience. But it
is more than that. In his thinking, the artist points to unseen realities, to
larger questions of purpose and meaning. In doing so, she reminds us that,
although the universe is astonishing in its richness, beauty, and complexity, we
are but a vapor that lasts a short while.
"The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas,
to propagate thoughts, to serve as example," Tarkovsky explains. "The aim of art
is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it
capable of turning to good." Any artist or prophet who is willing to devote his
life to the illumination of this great and simple truth-"You are going to die,
so what manner of person ought you to be?"-will necessarily suffer persecution,
and therein lies the sacrifice. Tarkovsky's is not a popular message. But any
artist or prophet who be-lieves in the core of his being that Something exists
beyond the reach of his five senses can afford to do no less. He has not been
given an option.
Tarkovsky and the Western Audience
Goethe said that it is as hard to read a great book as it is to write one. It is
our relationship with reality that allows us to bear the ideas and spiritual
judgments that the author has endured-to suffer along with her in her wrestling
with the world. If we have not struggled with truth, we will not recognize truth
when we see it.
Tarkovsky's films are bewilderingly complex and confusing, especially to Western
audiences accustomed to the conventional narrative structures of mainstream
Hollywood films. The viewer is often left adrift with the beginning of each new
scene, wondering how this event or that image fits into the plot, and often
doesn't learn the identity or purpose of a character until well into the film.
Halfway through any Tarkovsky film, the viewer is bound to have more questions
than answers. The authors of a fine study of Tarkovsky's films, Andrei
Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue (Indiana University Press, 1994), describe the
ambiguous nature of his narrative structure:
In almost every case Tarkovsky either ignores or thwarts the narrative
expectations that most viewers will apply to interpreting the film's structure:
To make sense of the films, and to respond to their strong inner coherence, we
have to learn to ask different questions and to tolerate an unusual amount of
both narrative ambiguity and denial-or diversion into different channels-of what
we consider to be legitimate narrative demands.
The average Western film requires nothing from the viewer. Its narrative
structure sets up a series of questions in order to preserve an air of suspense:
"What will happen to this character?" "How will he/she overcome the problem of a
difficult marriage?" "Will Lassie bring the insulin to the diabetic hunter with
the broken leg before he dies?" Then it logically answers each question and
dilemma so that the viewer leaves satisfied that a resolution has come about.
Thus the typical Western film gives us what we want by telling us what we
already know. As Tarkovsky says, "Generally people look to familiar examples and
prototypes for confirmation of their opinion, and a work of art is assessed in
relation to, or by analogy with, their private aspirations or personal
Tarkovsky knew that in real life there are few such pat resolutions to our
tragedies and dilemmas. In most of his films, the questions are not so easy. For
example, in Andrei Rublev, the question, "Will Andrei ever paint again?", does
not even come up until halfway through the film. Far more important is our
identification with Andrei's sufferings, questions pertaining to the purpose of
art, and crises of belief. In Sacrifice, we are deliberately left with the
question, "Was this all a dream, or did the events of Alexan-der's night with
the witch really happen? Did Alexander, in fact, avert a nuclear holocaust?"
Tarkovsky is in a sacred dialogue with creation, and he wants the viewer to join
in the dialogue. The only way for him to gain our participation is to undermine
our expectations from the outset by giving us less information than is necessary
to form absolute judgments about his films. He knows that to truly see, we must
first admit our blindness-that by groping in the darkness of our understanding
we may, for the first time, experience some corner of life as it really is.
Tarkovsky realized that his films were difficult to comprehend, and that
multiple viewings were necessary to extract the deep truths buried within. He
acknowledged that film audiences are unused to this level of demands, since most
directors do all of their thinking for their audiences. He wrote:
The beautiful is hidden from the eyes of those who are not searching for the
truth, for whom it is contraindicated. But the profound lack of spirituality of
those people who see art and condemn it, the fact that they are neither willing
nor ready to consider the meaning and aim of their existence in any higher
sense, is often masked by the vulgarly simplistic cry, "I don't like it!" "It's
boring!" It is not a point that one can argue; but it is like the utterance of a
man born blind who is being told about a rainbow. He simply remains deaf to the
pain undergone by the artist in order to share with others the truth he has
Grappling with Tarkovsky's films over the years has been like learning a new
language. I have seen most of his films four or five times, read numerous
treatises, and had long discussions with other lovers of his work-yet often I
feel as if I am only scratching the surface of his works. But the rewards that
have come from the effort are inestimable-glimpses of profound beauties,
insights into devastating psychological realities, rumors and intimations of
Glory. For me, Tarkovsky, more than any other director, has portrayed the
doubts, fears, and joys that await the stalker of truth upon his often sad and
lonely pilgrimage through life.
Andrei Tarkovsky Filmography
Ivan's Childhood, 1962 (American title: My Name is Ivan)
The story of Ivan, a twelve-year-old Russian scout on the German front in World
War II. The film details twenty-four hours in his life, between dangerous
missions, his desire for vengeance against the Germans who have slaughtered his
family, and his dreams of happier times. A bleak, arid view of war, and
Tarkovsky's most conventional film.
Length: 95 mins. Black & white.
Andrei Rublev, 1966
Eight episodes in the life of Rublev, a fifteenth-century Orthodox monk and the
greatest of Russia's painters of icons. The film traces Rublev's development as
an artist and philosopher in terrifying times of Mongol raids and crises of
faith. An astonishingly beautiful film, incorporating many of the methods
Tarkovsky would use throughout the rest of his career.
Length: 185 mins. Black & white and color.
A treatment of Stanislaw Lem's science fiction novel. Protagonist Kris Kelvin
journeys to planet Solaris, which has a power to bring to life the dreams of
those within its orbit. Kelvin's wife, who had committed suicide years before,
comes to life on the spaceship, and the film primarily deals with Kelvin's moral
dilemmas in dealing with the mistakes of his past relationships with his wife
and father. Solaris has been unfavorably (and incorrectly) compared with 2001: A
Length: 165 mins. Color.
A highly complex, ambiguous autobiographical film, starring Margarita Terekhova
as Tarkovsky's wife and mother in one of the finest acting performances in
cinema history. Mirror also stars Tarkovsky's real mother and his father, in
voice-over, reading his father's poetry. The film is full of nostalgic details
and resonates with a homely, simple beauty combined with complex psychological
and spiritual observations.
Length: 106 mins. (Some American video versions are only 90 minutes. Obtain the
longer version, if possible.) Color and black & white.
Stalker, a paid guide, leads two characters known as Writer and Scientist into
The Zone, a forbidden region, possibly created by a meteorite, in which one's
deepest wishes are purported to come true. Stalker has to deal with the doubts
and cynicism of his compatriots, and ultimately with the unbelieving nature of
Length: 161 mins. Color, with long sections in black & white.
Tarkovsky's first film shot outside the Soviet Union. Set in Italy, the film
concerns the relationship between a Russian expatriate, Andrei Gorchakov, his
Italian guide Eugenia, and a "madman," Dominico, who had locked his family up
for several years, awaiting the end of the world. One of the most dreamlike of
Tarkovsky's films, with a highly complex-and confusing-internal logic.
Length: 126 mins. (Video is not available due to copyright complexities.) Color.
The Sacrifice, 1986
Shot by Sven Nykvist, Bergman's cinematographer, Tarkovsky's last film is
perhaps his most beautiful. Filmed while Tarkovsky was already in the throes of
cancer (yet before the final diagnosis), Sacrifice appears as a last will and
testament. It is the story of Alexander, his loving relationship with his son,
and the strain he feels with the rest of his family in Sweden. A nuclear war has
been announced, and Alexander prays that if God would make everything as it was
before, he would give up his family and possessions and never utter another
word. The audience is never certain if the events that transpire are real or a
dream, but Alexander fulfills his vow in a remarkable closing sequence.
Length: 149 mins. Color, with long segments of near-black & white.
Suggestions for Viewing Tarkovsky's Films
Most people who live outside a major city or university town will seldom, if
ever, have the opportunity to see a Tarkovsky film the way it was meant to be
seen-on a theater screen, the larger the better. However, viewing a video is
better than nothing. For those of you who aren't within hailing distance of a
metropolis such as New York, Los Angeles, or Boulder (The Video Station there is
probably the only location in Colorado with all of Tarkovsky's films in stock),
you will need to badger your local librarian into obtaining the videos through
Inviting a group of friends together to watch a Tarkovsky film is a memorable
experience-at least you won't be baffled by yourself. Mirror and Stalker are
probably the most representative places to begin a study of Tarkovsky's works.
Plan on seeing them more than once, preferably with breathing space between
viewings. If, after all of this effort, you still feel challenged to pursue a
deeper comprehension of the director's themes, the best books to read on the
subject are Tarkovsky's treatise on the cinema, Sculpting in Time, or Johnson
and Petrie's The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue.
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