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 "Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream."
 "Perhaps the meaning of all human activity lies in artistic consciousness, in the pointless and selfless creative act? Perhaps our capacity to create is evidence that we ourselves were created in the image and likeness of God?"
Andrei Tarkovsky, the final lines of his book "Sculpting in Time"

Andrei Arsenevich Tarkovsky (1932–1986) was a Soviet film director, writer, and theorist. His family had a literary background, and he studied art, music and language at school. But during the Great Patriotic War, his father was drafted and Andrei, his mother, and his sisters had to evacuate. He caught tuberculosis and recovered in a hospital. He dropped out of university and decided to become a prospector. He was sent to Siberia and, in the wilderness there, discovered film.

Tarkovsky entered the State Institute of Cinematography after finishing his expedition in Siberia. By this time, Stalin had died and Khrushchev was opening up the Soviet Union, so Tarkovsky was able to see and study the films of such greats as Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa, influencing him to become an auteur. This openness also led him to explore many themes in his films, such as man's role in the world, dreams vs. reality, the nature of religion, morality and freedom of choice.

His films were controversial with Soviet authorities because Tarkovsky dared to ask these heavy questions instead of accepting dogma. This gave his films extra credentials outside the Soviet Union, especially in the West, whose film critics gave high praise to each of his films. But recognition at home would have to wait until after his 1986 death from cancer, which came just as Mikhail Gorbachev was opening the Soviet Union again. Tarkovsky was posthumously awarded the Lenin Prize in 1990, and the Russian government created the Andrei Tarkovsky Memorial Prize to award the country's most talented filmmakers.

Tarkosvky is one of the best-known Russian/Soviet directors, along with Sergei Bondarchuk, Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Konchalovsky, and Nikita Mikhalkov, and his films have gained many awards.


Filmography:

  • The Killers (1956) was Tarkovsky's first student film, based on the short story by Ernest Hemingway.
  • There Will Be No Leave Today (1959) was his second student film, about soldiers trying to protect a small town by disposing of unexploded bombs. It is the least typical film for Tarkovsky, resembling a patriotic war film, but was played on Victory Day for a few years afterward.
  • The Steamroller and the Violin (1960) was his third and last student film, about the Intergenerational Friendship of a young boy and a steamroller operator.
  • Ivan's Childhood (1962) or My Name Is Ivan was Tarkovsky's first feature film. Like Cranes Are Flying or The Ballad of a Soldier, this film explores the suffering and human cost of war as seen by Ivan, a 12-year-old boy in World War II occupied Russia. It was a commercial and critical success, and gained Tarkovsky his first real fame as a director.
  • Andrei Rublev (1966) is Tarkovsky's longest film, at 205 minutes, and is a Biopic of medieval Russian icon painter Andrei Rublev, focusing on his role in creating the Russian Christian identity. Its depictions of ancient religion and ambiguity about politics got this film censored for years. However, it was his first widely awarded film.
  • Solaris (1972) was based on the book by Stanislaw Lem about scientists on a mysterious planet who see images of people they remember from their lives on Earth. It was in wide release for many years, remains a seminal film in Soviet science fiction, and was famous enough in the West to be remade by Steven Soderbergh.
  • The Mirror (1975) or Mirror was a loosely autobiographical film that Tarkovsky had been working on since 1964. It is told out of order, and is a chronicle of the life and meditations of Alexei. This film did not have an official premiere, but has since become better known and welcomed into the Tarkovsky oeuvre.
  • Stalker (1979) was loosely based on the Strugatsky Brothers story Roadside Picnic, and in this film the Stalker guides two people into the Room, which is said to be able to fulfill a person's innermost desire. This film continues many of the themes explored by Solaris and was one of the inspirations for the STALKER series of video games.
  • Voyage in Time (1982) was Tarkovsky's first "foreign" film, and documented his collaboration with Tonino Guerra in preparation for...
  • Nostalghia (1983), made in Italy, about a Russian writer who goes to Italy to research the life of a Russian composer who killed himself upon returning home. Along the way, the writer begins to feel nostalgia for Russia, befriends a madman, and begins reflecting upon himself.
  • The Sacrifice (1986) or Offret was Tarkovsky's final film, made in Sweden. As the world dies in a nuclear holocaust, the writer Alexander promises to God he will sacrifice everything he loves if only God will save the world. It was Tarkovsky's homage to his peer and idol Ingmar Bergman. Shortly after finishing this film, Tarkovsky died.

Tropes about or used by Tarkovsky:

  • Acting for Two: Margarita Terekhova in The Mirror. See Doppelganger below for why.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Ocean's biomagnetic current and neutrino-based projections, and the technology associated with the station, in Solaris, and the disruption of reality in the Zone in Stalker.
  • Art Shift: Tarkovsky likes to switch between black-and-white and color, notably in Stalker (the town is in black and white, the Zone in color) and Andrei Rublev (the events are in black and white, the icons in color). He said this was because we do not really examine our surroundings and notice colors enough, and he wanted us to find the meaning in everything. Solaris also has shifts between color and greyscale, with greyscale being more contemplative.
  • Author Avatar: Andrei Rublev in Andrei Rublev, Burton in Solaris, Alexei in The Mirror, the Writer in Stalker, and Alexander in The Sacrifice.
  • Badass Crew: The bomb squad in There Will Be No Leave Today.
  • Bald of Awesome: Stalker has a convict's buzz cut.
  • Body Horror: The injuries Hari suffers in Solaris.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Does the Room grant you your deepest desire? Only Porcupine would know, but even though he became rich, he killed himself because he sent his brother to his death. Nobody else is known to have gone into the Room and had their wishes granted.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: The spaceship from Earth to Solaris is so fast Kris Kelvin takes very little with him for the trip
  • Civil War: The Spanish Civil War appears in stock footage in The Mirror and two characters there fled from Spain to the USSR then.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: A frequent criticism of Tarkovsky is that his films contain too much meditation and not enough action, but he preferred it this way, so that we really can think about what we are seeing and hearing.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Lots of expansive, panning, cinematic shots. Also expect to see horses used with excessive Symbolism.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Monkey is a cripple, but may have psychic powers.
  • Dead Little Brother: Indirectly. Porcupine hanged himself out of guilt for having sent his brother to die in the Zone so he could become rich. Porcupine was the Stalker, and his death promoted the current Stalker to the position.
  • Dead Wife and Dead Scientist: Kris Kelvin's wife Hari poisoned herself ten years ago, and the scientist Gibaryan died just before Kelvin's arrival to Solaris.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The town scenes in Stalker, contrasting them with the colorful Zone.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Alexander in The Sacrifice.
  • Doppelganger: Margarita Terekhova plays both Alexei's mother and Alexei's wife Natalia in The Mirror, as well as a random ginger-haired girl, to illustrate that Alexei's lack of a father figure and subsequent reliance on his mother causes him to compare all the women he knows to his mother.
  • Downer Ending: Ivan's Childhood, The Sacrifice, and, in a more meta sense, Tarkovsky's own life, as he died from cancer just before his works gained a real worldwide audience.
  • Dr. Genericius: Sartorius.
  • Driven to Suicide: Gibaryan and Hari in Solaris, Porcupine in Stalker.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Stalker cannot drive in a straight line, even on railroad tracks.
  • Dungeonmaster's Girlfriend: Stalker's wife.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Stalker is this. Stalker has just returned from prison, presumably having been sent there for illegally going into the Zone. His daughter, Monkey, is crippled. Writer has come to the Zone because he no longer feels inspired in his writings. Professor wants to get a Nobel Prize and be respected by other academicians. Stalker's wife, despite arguing with Stalker, is the closest in the film to a happy person because she is the only person whose wishes have been granted.
  • Failed a Spot Check: One of the soldiers trying to prevent people from approaching the Zone sees Stalker's car, but does not think that Stalker is hiding under the car.
  • Fan Service: Alexei's mother in The Mirror takes a shower in full view of the camera, and in Solaris Hari's nipples poke through her shirt when she resurrects after taking the liquid oxygen.
  • Follow the Leader: The critical reception of 2001: A Space Odyssey may have factored into the creation of Solaris and Stalker, similar meditative sci-fi films.
  • Gainax Ending: Some of his movies seem to end in this way, like for example The Mirror and Nostalghia. See also Mind Screw.
  • Genius Loci: Solaris (a planet or rather planetary intelligence) and the Zone (a strange, secluded wilderness). "The Zone wants to be respected. Otherwise it will punish."
  • Go Mad From the Revelation: Burton after his flight over the Ocean, at least according to the heads of Solaristics.
  • Healing Factor: The projection of Hari can heal deep cuts from trying to break down a metal door and, after drinking liquid oxygen, painfully resurrects on the floor of the Solaris Station.
  • Herr Doktor: Doctor Snaut in Solaris.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The soldiers patrolling the Zone cannot hit Stalker's slow-moving Land Rover, but they do manage to wreck their own electrical equipment.
  • Insufferable Genius: Tarkovsky comes off as one to people who are not already into film, especially since his attitude to the audience was almost confrontational.
  • Ironic Nickname: The "dry tunnel" in Stalker has a large waterfall and is flooded.
  • Journey to Find Oneself
  • Legacy Character: Stalker. All Stalkers lead people into the Zone, and when one leaves the job, their apprentice becomes Stalker.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Tarkovsky loves holding a shot, sometimes for several minutes, to ensure maximum boredom. In Stalker, he leaves the camera on to capture a rainstorm forming, pouring rain, and then dissipating.
  • MacGuffin: The Professor's backpack in Stalker. At first his attachment to it makes him look like a cosseted old man, but in fact he needs it because it contains the bomb he stole from the other scientists.
  • Mind Screw: Too many to list here, as Tarkovsky practically makes a point of confusing the viewer.
  • Minimalist Cast: He seemed to enjoy having a limited number of actors in his films.
  • Mood Whiplash
  • Mosfilm Homely: Stalker and his wife in Stalker, Maria/Natalia in The Mirror.
  • Mysterious Waif: Stalker's daughter Monkey, apparently able to move glasses by force of will as an effect of the Zone.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: One of the rooms in the Zone is called the "meat mincer."
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The Zone has mysterious properties, including the ability to kill people and wreck technology. The most dramatic example is when the trio enter the Zone and see the wreckage of dozens of army tanks.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The heads of the Solaris Project reject Burton's testimony because they refuse to concede that Solaris is that intelligent, and pull him off the Station.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Stalker has Stalker, Stalker's wife, Monkey, Writer, and Professor.
  • Production Posse: Tarkovsky's wife and father helped him in the production of his films. His father, Arseny, also wrote the poems read in The Mirror. The actor Anatoly Solonitsyn, meanwhile, appeared in Andrei Rublev (as Andrei Rublev), Solaris (as Sartorius), The Mirror (as a doctor), and Stalker (as the Writer).
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Bach's "Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ" in Solaris is used as Hari's theme. Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and Ravel's "Bolero" bookend Stalker. Bach appears again, three times, in The Mirror.
  • Real Is Brown: Used as a metaphor in Stalker, where the scenes outside the Zone are not only brown, but washed out.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Stalker runs on religious imagery.
  • Scenery Porn: Nearly all his films, due to expert cinematography and direction, but standouts include the shots of the Zone in Stalker, lovingly rendered in full color, and the vast landscapes of Andrei Rublev.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Tarkosvky built up his films slowly so that people who wanted action movies and other, more mindless, fare would get out of the theater.
    • Not that his "interesting" parts are much more exciting
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Stalker's wife explaining the development of their relationship.
  • Space Clothes: Kris Kelvin wears a black leather jacket, green mesh top, tight grey pants, black boots, and a white jumpsuit.
  • Space Station: The station orbiting Solaris was built to house dozens of scientists, but the staff has been whittled down to only three.
  • State Sec: The stormtroopers assigned to patrol the Zone in Stalker.
  • Stock Footage: The Mirror has lots of stock footage, including scenes of:
    • Soviet balloons.
    • The Spanish Civil War.
    • The Great Patriotic War.
    • The Sino-Soviet Border War.
  • Take That: Older Burton's film of his interrogation as a younger man in Solaris is a attack on Gos Kino. Burton is clearly a Tarokvsky self-insert and the interrogators are metaphors of the Soviet film censorship committee. Burton tries to convince his questioners of the validity of all these wonderful things that he has seen on Solaris but the interrogators reject his claims. When they are shown a film of the events, they see nothing extraordinary. Tarkovsky is saying that the film censors are stupid philistines and try to censor his works only because they do not understand art.
  • Tall, Dark and Bishoujo: Hari.
  • The Oner: a regular feature of his films are very long one camera shots.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Kris Kelvin tries to kill one of the projections of Hari by stuffing her into a rocket and firing it into space. It does him no good.
  • True Art Is Angsty
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Kris Kelvin's estate looks like a typical Russian dacha and the cars are late 1960s/early 1970s, but there are also viewscreens, fast spaceships, and the station orbiting Solaris. A monologue says that investigation of Solaris had been going on for decades.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Alexei's mother and Stalker's wife, both based to varying degrees on Tarkovsky's mother. And Stalker himself may count as a male version.
  • Unknown Phenomenon: Solaris and the Zone, shown to be partially intelligent.
  • Used Future: The space station in Solaris is falling to pieces and covered in trash due to the scientists going mad and dying or leaving. One of the few times viewers can see litter on a space station.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Tarkovsky wants the audience to piece together his films, and relies on them knowing the references to other works, such as paintings, songs, books, poems, and even other films.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Andrei Rublev was originally titled The Passion According to Andrei, and just as a central component of The Bible is Jesus suffering and dying for our sins, so too does Andrei Rublev suffer and redeem medieval Russia, enlightening it with his icons.
  • Write Who You Know: Many elements in the films come from Tarkovsky's own life, such as the horrors of war, a family separated, hospitals, and someone meditating in the wilderness.
  • You All Meet in An Inn: The Stalker, Writer, and Professor.
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