An Andrei Tarkovsky Retrospect

As a film snob, I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time. When I would be able to catch not just one or two but the majority of Andrei Tarkovsky’s works on the silver screen. Long time readers of FilmJerk know that I have an unwritten policy to not see certain films until I have the chance to see them for the first time in a movie theatre. So if you live anywhere near New York City during the latter part of September, and you consider yourself a fan of cinema, you must make the trek to the Walter Reade Theatre in Lincoln Center to catch one of the following screenings (and thank you to the Lincoln Center for allowing us to reprint their notes and schedule for this festival):

Ivan’s Childhood aka My Name Is Ivan (Ivanovo Detstvo) NEW PRINT!
U.S.S.R. 1962; 96m

Tarkovsky’s feature debut, awarded the Golden Lion for Best Film at the 1962 Venice Film Festival, has all the hallmarks of his later works. From iconic visual signatures like apples and runaway horses to the overarching sense of hushed anguish, Tarkovsky stakes his claim to signature territory with this tale of a soldier boy whose only recollections of peacetime are sun-blinded dreams of his mother. Ivan’s Childhood is a manifestly spiritual drama, outraged less by the specifics of its wartime setting than with the violent nature of humanity. The Soviet censors let it slip through without changes or objections, seeing it as another “glory of the Red Army” picture; their embarrassment when critics hailed the film as something completely different led perhaps to their later vigorous scrutiny and suppression of Tarkovsky’s later works.

Fri Sept 13 @ 1:00 & 9:45PM
Sat Sept 14 @ 4:00PM
Mon Sept 16 @ 4:00PM
Tue Sept 17 @ 8:45PM
Thurs Sept 19 @ 3:15PM


The Steamroller and the Violin (Kapok I Skripka)
U.S.S.R., 1960; 45m

Tarkovsky’s diploma film from the VGIK, the Soviet film academy, was an extraordinarily auspicious debut. Cowritten with Andrei Konchalovsky, it details the unlikely friendship between a young violin player and a gruff steamroller operator. Tarkovsky creates a fascinating study of the intersection of two parallel worlds, discovering they have more in common than suspected.

Plus special added attraction Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Michal Leszczylowski, Sweden, 1988; 100m

During the filming of what would be his last film, The Sacrifice, Tarkovsky allowed Michal Leszczylowski, a Polish filmmaker living in Sweden, to make a documentary about the production. Using extensive interviews, as well as remarkable footage of the planning and execution of one of the most complex shots ever attempted, Leszczylowski offers an amazingly intimate portrait of Tarkovsky the man and the artist, revealing not only his ideas about art and life but also capturing his struggles with the cancer that would kill him. A wonderful introduction, and a lasting tribute, to one of cinema’s greatest artists.

Fri Sept 13 @ 3:00PM
Sat Sept 14 @ 1:00PM
Sun Sept 15 @ 4:30PM
Mon Sept 16 @ 1:00PM


Andrei Rublev (Andrei Rublyov) NEW PRINT!
U.S.S.R., 1969; 205m

A vast, free-form fresco, that takes place in the 15th century, of the life of Russia’s greatest icon painter From the spectacularly gruesome scenes of the Invasion of the Tartars and the naked pagan rites to the main theme of the artist in conflict with society, the film sweeps along in true epic tradition. Deemed unfit for Soviet audiences, it was drastically cut by state censors and not released for five years; in the West it was hailed by critics as a masterpiece and won the International Critics Prize at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival. This will be the full 205-minute director’s cut.

Fri Sept 13 @ 6:00PM
Sat Sept 14 @ 6:30PM


Solaris (Solyaris) NEW PRINT!
U.S.S.R., 1972; 165m

Scientist Chris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is sent to a space station whose inhabitants have been performing a series of experiments in an attempt to make contact with the strange planet known as Solaris. When he arrives, Klein believes that most of the crew has gone mad, until he’s visited by an apparition: his former lover Hari (Natalia Bondarchuk), who had committed suicide long ago. Thus he learns the secret of Solaris and its ocean, which creates “copies” of real people, “simulacra made not of ordinary matter but of neutrinos which are modeled by the thinking ocean out of the human subconscious. They are a physical embodiment of all the temptations, desires and suppressed guilt that torment the human mind” (Maya Turovskaya). Based on a novel by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem (currently being remade by Steven Soderbergh with George Clooney as Kelvin), Tarkovsky judged this film harshly. But then he judged every film he made harshly. This may be the most emotionally devastating science-fiction film ever.

My decision to film [Solaris] does not denote affection for the science-fiction genre. For me, the important thing is that Solaris poses a problem that means a lot to me: the problem of striving and achieving through your convictions; in moral transformation in the struggle of one man’s life. – Andrei Tarkovsky

Sun Sept 15 @ 1:00PM
Mon Sept 16 @ 6:30PM


Mirror aka The Looking-Glass (Zerkalo) NEW PRINT!
U.S.S.R., 1975; 108m

Perhaps Tarkovsky’s greatest work, this is his reflection on his own life: as an adult and as a child, and the house where he lived with his mother (Margarita Terekhova) and sister during the war, waiting for his father to come home. The action is interspersed – powerfully – with newsreel footage and poems written and read by Tarkovsky’s father Arseny.

As I began work on Mirror I found myself reflecting more and more that if you are serious about your work, then a film is not merely the next item in your career, it is an action which will affect the whole of your life. For I had made up my mind that in this film, for the first time, I would use the means of cinema to talk of all that was most precious to me, and do so directly, without playing any kind of tricks. – Andrei Tarkovsky

Sun Sept 15 @ 7:30PM
Tue Sept 17 @ 1:00 & 6:30PM
Wed Sept 18 @ 4:15PM
Thurs Sept 19 @ 1:00PM
Fri Sept 20 @ 3:30 & 8:30PM


One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich (Une journee d’Andrei Arsenevitch)

Chris Marker, France, 2000, 55m; video

Chris Marker, director of Le Jetee, had made a moving tribute and farewell to his friend Andrei Tarkovsky, which includes clips from the director’s work (including a brief moment from his student adaptation of Hemingway’s The Killers) and footage on the set of The Sacrifice and at what would be Tarkovsky’s deathbed in Paris. Marker’s analysis of Tarkovsky’s art is remarkable: astute, touchingly reverential, and remarkably insightful about the way that his films relate to his life. This is more than just a worthy document – it’s a testament of love and respect from one great artist to another.

Mon Sept 16 @ 9:30PM
Wed Sept 18 @ 9:30PM


U.S.S.R., 1979; 161m

A science-fiction tale that unwinds in the environs of the soul, Stalker takes the form of a nightmarish quest for nothing less than Truth: a writer and a scientist follow a shaven-headed “stalker” into verboten territory, a dangerous wilderness called the Zone. Tarkovsky makes “reality” yield up abstract images of startling originality, especially in his mystical vision of landscape-places found only in humankind’s spiritual Baedeker. A director who truly grasped the aesthetic power of color, Tarkovsky bathes this unforgettable pilgrimage in eerie sepia hues.

Tue Sept 17 @ 3:15PM
Wed Sept 18 @ 1:00 & 6:30PM
Sun Sept 22 @ 7:00PM


Nostalgia (Nostalghia)

Italy/U.S.S.R., 1983; 126m

Tarkovsky’s next to last film, Nostalgia,was his first film produced outside the Soviet Union. Barely anecdotal, and more than half reflexive, the film broods over the plight of a Russian in Italy, a melancholy, ironic landscape of mysterious vapors and voluptuously muted hues. Although the word nostalghia is similar to our nostalgia, it carries in Russian a much stronger meaning: the pain of separation from one’s native land. As other worldly as Solaris, more hypnotic than Stalker, Nostalgia is a work of sumptuous physical beauty that inexorably builds to the emotional climax.

Fri Sept 20 @ 1:00 & 6:00PM
Mon Sept 23 @ 6:30 & 9:00PM
Wed Sept 25 @ 6:30 & 9:00PM


The Sacrifice (Offret)
Sweden, 1986; 145m

Dedicated “with hope and confidence” to his son, who accepted the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize for the dying Tarkovsky, The Sacrifice celebrates a man who, at the start of a nuclear war, sells his soul and then all that nourishes the heart and soul to God, in return for a world made safe for his children. Audaciously conceived long takes begin and end this dream of redemption. The first is a revelation of faith, the second a revelation of the apocalypse that would leave us all homeless and abandoned. The last cinematic legacy of a director to whom one critic attributed “a nobility of spirit rare in contemporary art and almost without parallel in contemporary cinema.”

Thurs Sept 26 @ 7:00PM
Fri Sept 27 @ 4:00 & 7:00PM


I know that Savant is going to be much upset when he reads about this, as his visit to New York ends three days before this festival begins.