Andrei Tarkovsky

Master of the Cinematic Image

By Stuart C. Hancock

Copyright © 1996 Mars Hill Review 4 · Winter/Spring: pgs 136-146.

"Let us put it like this: A spiritual-that is, significant-phenomenon is 'significant' precisely because it exceeds its own limits, serves as expression and symbol of something spiritually wider and more universal, an entire world of feelings and thoughts, embodied within it with greater or less felicity-that is the measure of its significance."
-Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
"Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual." -Andrei Tarkovsky

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 lost.

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 manifestations."

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 literature.

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 films.

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

Poetic Reasoning

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 traditional drama."

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 violence.

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.

3. Memory

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 position."

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 reached.

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.

Solaris, 1972

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 Space Odyssey.
Length: 165 mins. Color.

Mirror, 1975

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, 1979

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 humankind.
Length: 161 mins. Color, with long sections in black & white.

Nostalghia, 1983

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 interlibrary loan.

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.