Опасная зона

Опасная зона

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A few notes on Andrei Tarkovsky

One of the most famous russian film directors is inevitably Andrei Tarkovsky. During his career he only shot 7 films, most noteworthy the autobiographic movie Зеркало "The Mirror" and the two science fiction movies Солярис "Solaris" and Сталкер "Stalker".

Tarkovsky tries to emphasize the cinema genre as an art form. Generally you can consider his movies as paintings with a time dimension added to it. For instance in "The Mirror" Tarkovsky let a famous paintings by the flasmish painter Bruegel come alive. "The Mirror" is a complicated film though, and personally I like "Stalker" the most with its strong meditative and post-apocalyptic feeling. This is not only expressed by the photography and the story line, but also by the sound design: in the scene shown below, the three main characters enter the zone on a motorized draisine:

Note, how the engine sound fades away, and only the sound of the rail joints remains, slightly electronically modified. Epic: their wrinkled faces, and a very characteristic Solonitsyn dozing off. The black and white shooting adds contrast emphasizing every little fold and the battered souls. When they finally enter the zone, the movie switches from B/W to colour:

"Urban Exploration" is about visiting recent ruins of our civilization, and that concept has surged during the last 5 years, becoming widely popular among people on my age. Arranged trips can be bought places such as Chernobyl. I prefer the term “Industrial Wasteland Tourism".

Tarkovsky truly was ahead of his time with the post-apocalyptic scenography in Stalker. Along with the absence of special effects which tend to look cheap after some time, this makes the footage timeless.

Our most noteworthy contemporary danish director Lars von Trier ("Antichrist", "Dogville") is heavily inspired by Tarkovsky (also his "Europa" trilogy). Checkout this scene from "Antichrist" :

the scenography, even the colour balance is very Tarkovsky-ish, there is a similar scene in "The Mirror", but I could not find it on youtube. :-/

Last year there was a one-day course dedicated to my favourite director, arranged by FOF in Aarhus. The program involved a lecture on Tarkovskys life and creative portfolio and watching the movie "The Mirror" followed by a discussion. "The Mirror" is probably the movie which is most difficult to understand. It is full of biblical references and encrypted symbolism, I have real trouble to uncover all layers. However, this is of course challenging and makes the movie even more interesting. So, this course seemed very promising, and I signed up. Did some preparations and tried to group all the questions I wanted to discuss.

Of course, if you have high expectations, chances are high you get disappointed. Apart of me, 6 people attended. The lecturer was a teacher of a Russian language course, and all participants (except me) where students of her class. Unfortunately, I was the only one who had seen more than just one movie (and more than just once...). The discussion part was therefore rather halting.

Yet, what I found very interesting was what the teacher said about how the films were received in Soviet Russia at that time. She was a teenager during the 70ies, and generally what was shown in movie theaters was daft simple minded movies. (I.e. imagine all you were allowed to see was mainstream hollywood movies! Gaaaahh...!) The Tarkovsky movies tended to be very controversial, they were not banned though. Instead they where rarely shown, but if they were, people flocked to the movie theatres. She and her friends brought paper and pencil into the cinema and took notes in the dark of the poems occuring in Tarkovskys movies.

As mentioned earlier, Tarkovsky tried to emphasize the art element in cinematography. The pool scene (yeah, we had it in an earlier post, music is by Artemiev) then must represent the classic still life discipline in painting!

All Tarkovskys movies can be watched here for free:


Later I plan to add a post about the STALKER computer game series made by Ukranian GSC. They are based on the very same movie, and certainly worth a closer investigation.

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