Andrei Tarkovsky was the most spiritual and poetic director of all time. For him cinematography was not entertainment, it was art in the best meaning of this word. He was one of the most educated directors – he studied music and painting, he was born into the family of a poet. Being a versatile artist he was able to create a synthesis of arts in his films. Film for him was not just a reflection of reality; it was more like a poem or a dream.
When film is not a document, it is a dream. That is why Tarkovsky is the greatest of them all. He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams. He doesn't explain. What should be explained anyhow? He is a spectator, capable of staging his visions in the most unwieldy but, in a way, the most willing of media.
For him films were much more than a synthesis of arts. As he wrote himself, he wanted to sculpt time and to reach into the inner truth of our existence.
"For me film - is a way to reach the truth and I am trying to do it to the fullest extent of what I am capable of. I am profoundly convinced that the process of creating a film does not end after it was finally made ready for the movie theatre. The act of creation takes place in the auditorium at the time of watching the film. Therefore, the viewer for me is neither my consumer, or a judge, but a co-creator, co-author."
From my point of view Tarkovsky is one of the most underrated directors. His films are unknown for the majority of cinemagoers. And one of the purposes of this site is to bring attention to this great director, to his films and ideas.
Solaris, the brilliant interpretation by Tarkovsky, no doubt, overshadowed the story by Stanislaw Lem, and full of profound ideas and beautifully filmed. Stanislaw Lem, who wrote Solaris, disliked the film and called it a "Crime and a Punishment". However, these critiques can be considered a compliment and we can nowadays call Tarkovsky as the Dostoyevsky of cinematography.
His films are deeply spiritual. In the entire history of cinema there has never been a director, who has made such a dramatic stand for the human spirit as did Andrei Tarkovsky. Today, when cinema seems to be reduced to a banality the films by Tarkovsky are nearly forgotten. The new generation raised on popcorn does not know this great master. He was a one of a kind genius and he created his own language, his own world.
He wrote:"It is so much easier to slip down than it is to rise one iota above your own narrow, opportunist motives. A true spiritual birth is extraordinarily hard to achieve." ". . . nobody wants, or can bring himself, to look soberly into himself and accept that he is accountable for his own life and his own soul." "The connection between man's behavior and his destiny has been destroyed; and this tragic breach is the cause of his sense of instability in the modern world. . . . [man] has arrived at the false and deadly assumption that he has no part to play in shaping his own fate." "I am convinced that any attempt to restore harmony in the world can only rest on the renewal of personal responsibility."
And there are other unique qualities, which make Tarkovsky a great director and also a great human being. He had a strong belief that conscience is "the most important thing" and wanted to make other filmmakers aware of "the fact that the most convincing of the arts demands a special responsibility on the part of those who work in it: the methods by which cinema affects audiences can be used far more easily and rapidly for their moral decomposition, for the destruction of their spiritual defenses, than the means of the old, more traditional art forms." (from "Sculpting in Time`)
,,Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art. Modern art has taken a wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence in order to affirm the value of the individual for his own sake. What purports to be art begins to looks like an eccentric occupation for suspect characters who maintain that any personalized action is of intrinsic value simply as a display of self-will. But in an artistic creation the personality does not assert itself, it serves another, higher, and communal idea. The artist is always the servant, and is perpetually trying to pay for the gift that has been given to him as if by a miracle. Modern man, however, does not want to make any sacrifice, even though true affirmation of the self can only be expressed in sacrifice. We are gradually forgetting about this, and at the same time, inevitably, losing all sense of human calling.,
Tarkovsky was a deep thinker who rejected the commercialized society and the coca cola culture. It is interesting to read his notes about America.
1983. "22 November, San Gregorio In the past whenever I watched American films set in villages or small provincial towns I was always getting the impression houses and street decorations were badly made. But when I saw those places with my own eyes I concluded it was just the opposite. Entire America is a kind of Disneyland (decorations). Houses are made from slats, planed boards, and plywood. A feeling of the lack of stability and solidity hangs above it all. Krzysztof Zanussi, with whom we were travelling, was explaining this by the American dynamism, unwillingness to grow into any one place, readiness to run across the country whenever a better job beckons. Hamlet — or a portion of it at least — should be filmed in Monument Valley. It's astonishing that in places like this, where one ought to talk to God, Americans make westerns like John Ford used to do. Quakers. A village. Superquakers. Girls in long skirts. Vast spaces, roads on which it's impossible to get run over by a passing car. Emptiness. Tiny towns and a wonderful prairie. Poor Americans — with no soul, no roots, living in a land of spiritual riches, a land they don't know and don't appreciate. New York is terrible. [ Tarkovsky's Diaries ]
Tarkovsky, regardless of how one see his personal beliefs, tries to show us a world that is magical, supernatural, and ultimately beyond human comprehension.
"Although all his films are self-reflexive, he does not draw attention to the camera for radical Brechtian reasons. He is not trying to subvert bourgeois narrative codes. He is not even assaulting the tenets of Socialist Realism, a doctrine he found every bit as unappealing as Western mass culture aimed at the consumer. What his constant use of tracking shots, slow motion, and never-ending pans - indeed his entire visual rhetoric - seems to emphasize is that he is moulding the images. He is a virtuoso, and he wants us to be aware of the fact." - G.C. MacNab (The St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia, 1998)
Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema.