I love my avatar - Introducing the Russian director, Andrey Tarkovsky
Judit Szepessy
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My avatar features the main actor in a Russian movie titled Stalker. His name is Alexander Kaidanovsky. Stalker was directed by Andrey Tarkovsky. He is my favourite director and Stalker is my all time favourite movie. In this geeklist I will introduce Tarkovsky's seven movies.



Tarkovsky was a unique director in many ways. At the time he directed his first feature film he already posessed all the distinctive qualities that were so peculiar to his films; the way he handled time; the way he incorporated certain objects in his films and gave them extra meaning; the special lense through which he viewed nature; how he saw himself and his role in movie making; he incorporated a lot of metaphorical images through certain images of natural elements or animals ( eg. rain, dripping water, horse, dog, wind and certain images of nature. )
He thought deeply and phylosophically about his work and its role. He wanted to address the decline in humanity and wake up mankind to fulfill its spiritual calling. He said that "every new art is an answer to the spiritual need of its time, and must address those questions that are central to its epoch".

I realize that his films are not for everyone becuase of the structure of his films, the lack of plot in most of his movies, the long takes he used and the metaphorical images he used - all in all, his films have a special language. However, I hope that this geeklist will make his name and art a little bit more well known and appreciated. It is worth taking the challenge and watch his movies!

Have you seen any of his movies? If yes, which one and how did you like it? Please, add any coments/reflections on his films.
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1. Board Game: Ivan the Great: The Rise of Muscovy 1462-1505 [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Judit Szepessy
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Ivan's Childhood

This movie was Tarkovskys first feature film. It already evoked Bergman's recognition and praise. Bergman said that with this film Tarkovsky was able to speak about such realms that he had never been able to address.
Tarkovsky handles time in a unique way. He does not handle time in a chronological sense; for him time is a non-chronological phenomenon which dictates its own pace to that work and therefore he opposes to the artificial rhythms created by montage and editing in general. In his shots he wanted to capture time and this theory "sculping in time" led to him using mainly long takes in his films.

The film tells the story of orphan boy Ivan and his experiences during World War II. Ivan's Childhood was one of several Soviet films of the late 1950s that looked at the human cost of war and did not glorify the war experience.
It won him critical acclaim and made him internationally known. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1962 and the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1962.
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an article on the film saying that it is one of the most beautiful films he had ever seen. Filmmaker Sergei Parajanov and Krzysztof Kieślowski praised the film and cited it as influence on their work.





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2. Board Game: Famous Paintings [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Andrey Rublev (1966)

Little is known about the life of the famous Russian icon painter. Tarkovsky invented a life for Rublev.



The movie is about the impoartance of art and artistic freedom in the midst of a suppressive regime. Rublev also reflects about the importance of faith and how to use our God given talents.
For Rublev the foundation of art's beauty is the presence of human goodness in society. He becomes hesitant and intimidated when he realizes that he can find nothing but violence, treachery and jealousy in the world. When he encounters a young boy who makes a big bell for the grand duke Rublev understands that the artis should not expect anything from the outside world. The only thing an artist can rely upon is inner spiritual inspiration.

The actor who plays Rublev travelled to the casting on his own money because he had read the screenplay and loved it. Tarkovsky and Solonitzyn clicked and after Rublev Solonitzyn acted in two of his other films. Later on he played in Stalker and Solaris. He was to play the main character in Nostalghia but he had died before Tarkovskd started to make the film.

Due to the film's religious theme and political message the movie was not released for several years in the Soviet Union. In 1966 in the Cannes Festival it received the FIPRESCI Price.
Most of the film was shot in black and white.
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3. Board Game: Captain Future [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:10614]
Judit Szepessy
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Solaris (1972)

Solaris is a loose novel adaptation of a novel of the same name by Stanislaw Lem.
The movie is about Kevin's inner spiritual journey (he is a psychologist) into his past and consciousness. Kevin left his wife after a verbal fight and later his wife committed suicide. The framework of the film - most of the film takes places in another planet, on Solaris (which can be interpreted as the manifestation of conscience ) - makes the film look like a sci - fi but Tarkovsky said he chose this form only becuase in this framework he could address certain issues the best. He did not like when people referred to Solaris as a scifi.
On Solaris Kevin meets his wife's appariton and gets confronted with his past. The movie speaks about our responsibility as to how we handle relationships; addreesses our conscience; also about our responsibility towards earth and nature.



In the movie the space station is decorated with Breughel paintings and Rublev icons.
The soundtrack of Solaris features a combination of Johann Sebastian Bach's chorale prelude for organ, "Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" and an electronic score by composer Eduard Artemyev.

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4. Board Game: Mirror Game [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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Mirror (1975)

A loosely autobiographical film. The complex structure of the film makes it difficult to understand it fully at first viewing. The plot moves on two levels - present and past and the director hardly gives the viewers clues that would help clearly separate the two different time zones. The main plot takes place in the sixties but there are constant flashbacks to WWII. Two paralell narratives are told: the narrative of the main character who is dying and the narrative of his mother's youth.



The film is composed of images of different fragments of personal, historical and cultural (Pushkin's letter to Chadayev about Russia's role in history) memory. The organizing principle of this mosaic is the main character's personal biography.
Can all these fragments form a unified picture within the main character? Is healing possible? How should we relate to our past and family ? These are the main questions the film is asking.
In the film the main character echoes a couple of poems by Tarkovsky's father, Arseny Tarkovsky.
The movie echoes two winter scenes by Breughel: "Winter landscape with a Bird Trap" and "The Hunters in the Snow".
Tarkovsky hardly used music in this film. However, significant parts of his films feature pieces by Bach giving music special meaning and importance to certain scenes.

Tarkovsky said with this film he wanted to pay tribute to his mother. There are several beautiful meditative shots that you will never forget. The structure of the film works like stream of consciousness. Because of this technique the movie has a special place in Tarkovsky's art and in cinematography as well.
Mirror is a beautiful film, a true masterpiece.
My favourite scene is when the mother and father leviates. An amazing visual expression of transcendent harmony between lovers. Tarkovsky uses the same scene in Solaris and The Sacrifice.
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5. Board Game: Meeting Room [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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Stalker (1979)

This was the last film he shot in his homeland.

In an unnamed country suddenly appeared the Zone. A mystery arose and together with it there appeared people wishing to investigate it. And Stalker appeared as well. According to Tarkovsky he is a guide whose destiny is to lead lost souls to the Zone and whose goal is their possible salvation.
Stalker leads the Writer and the Scientist through the Zone to the Room. In the Room if you enter your innermost wishes are fulfilled. Through various obstacles the three men get to the Room and the Writer and Scientist are going to enter ...
Much of the movie centers around the characters' journey through the Zone. They have phylosophical discussions on life and share the reasons why they want to enter the Room.
The existence of the Room serves as a pretext to discover the personalities of the three protagonists of the film.



Tarkovsky spent a year shooting a version of the outdoor scenes of Stalker. However, when the crew got back to Moscow, they found that all of the film had been improperly developed and their footage was unusable. The film had been shot on experimental Kodak stock with which Soviet laboratories were unfamiliar.
Some people who took part in the production of Stalker had untimely death (Solonytzin, Tarkovsky). Those who were at the scene during filming say the location of filming was poisonous.

In the final film score natural sounds and music interact to the point where they are indistinguishable. In fact, many of the natural sounds were not production sounds but were created by the composer on his synthesizer.
Within the Zone, in the countryside, all is colorful, while the outside, urban world is tinted sepia.
One of my favourite scenes is when Stalker's wife speaks to the camera, to us . She says although they have a hard life and people think Stalker is a lunatic she found happiness with him and would not change her life for anything and anyone else.

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6. Board Game: Nostalgia [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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Nostalgia 1983

“I wanted to make a film about Russian nostalgia-about the state of mind peculiar to our nation which affects Russians who are far from their native land. I wanted the film to be about the fatal attachment of Russians to their national roots, their past, their culture, their native places, their families and friends; an attachment which they carry with them all their lives, regardless of where destiny may fling them."



This was the first film Tarokvsky shot in foreign land, in Italy. After making this movie he did not return to Russia.
The plot of Nostalghia is simple: a Russian writer named Andrei is in Italy researching a famous Russian musician’s life (Sosnovsky), and during his time in Italy he is extremely melancholy and nostalgic for his Russian home and family. On one level of the film speaks about how immigrants (or people in general who end up living in a foreign country ) have to make an effort to connect to the country in which they live; how to find a balance between keeping your roots and grow new roots into your own country. Andrey becomes sick because he could not live in the present but kept looking back to the past.
Throughout the film we see flashbacks, dreams and daydreams with scenes from the homeland. Andrey dreams of his wife, son and mother and his house.
Towards the very end of the film Andrei fulfills a madman's request: he carries a lighted candle across a drained spaa pool. Can this scene be interpreted as if Andrei finds a good balance between Italy and his longing for Russia? This scene is very interesting in a sence that this is an uninterrupted nine minute shot .
We see beautiful shots of Italy but nothing compares with the beauty of Russia for Andrey.
On another level the film is about our responsibility to fulfill our cultural mandate here on earth. (Think of the madman and how desparate he is seeing people wasting their life. The holly fool he is.
Although this is not my favourite Tarkovsky film I can relate to the theme very easily and on a deep level: we emmigrated to Canada three and a half years ago and we are still trying to find a good balance between looking back and finding our place in our new country where we decided to live.
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7. Board Game: Sacrifice in the East [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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The Sacrifice 1986

This was Tarkovsky's last film. He died shortly after completing it.
The film was shot in Sweden on the island of Gotland, where many of Bergman's films had been shot, and was photographed by Bergman's favourite cinematographer Sven Nykvist. The cast included one of Bergman's most well known actors, Erland Josephson. All these reflect Tarkovsky's respect for Bergman. Indeed, this films bears some resemblance to Bergman's films in general. To a certain extent the movie evokes a kind of Bergman feeling. For those who have watched other Tarkovsky's films (and are familiar with Bergman's films) this feeling add extra dimension to the viewing experience. At least that was what I felt watching The Sacrifice.



Alexander, (an aging atheist actor/psychologist/writer ) with a younger actress wife, a teenage daughter, and a young son experiences the opening throes of the end of the world by a nuclear holocaust. In despair the protagonist vows to God to sacrifice all he loves (what this would mean in reality is not made plain in his prayer, and provides the final surprise of the film) if only this good act of fate may be undone.
At the end of the film Alexander carries out the promised sacrifice and then is being driven off to a mental hospital. It is not clear if he looses sanity or chooses to appear insane.
The movie reflects on our troublesome world and the loss or devaluation of moral principles.

Most of the film takes place inside or outside the house. The house was built specifically for the production.
A quotation I like from the movie: "Every gift involves a sacrifice".
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8. Board Game: Final Straw [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
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In this last entry I just want to jot down some final thoughts that were left out from the previous entries.

To sum up his contribution to modern cinema we can say that although Tarkovsky made only seven long feature films with these films he imprinted his name in the history of cinematography.

In his long takes Tarkovsky integrated humans into their environment. Motives of nature and human culture are meant to represent a metaphysical universe existing within the object world the characters move in. He uses contemplation in time to make the viewer feel the presence of this other world.

Also a lot could be said about how his work was deeply rooted in Russian culture, thinking and literature. No wonder his favourite author was Dostoyevsky.

Tarkovsky had to fight a lot with the communist comissionaries who did not have a clue of his art. What I always appreciated about him, among other things, that he never compromised his artistic values and ideas for commercial success, or getting the favour of the communists. Together with his films this shows that as fas as his work is concerned he was a man of artistic and moral integrity.

He died of cancer in Paris in 1986. He was 54 years old.
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