24 Nov 2009
The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky
I’ve never been a film buff or art house fanatic, but I like to look beyond predictable mainstream movies, and years ago that led me to Andrei Tarkovsky.
Now, I’m a fairly patient film watcher, but I have to describe his films as slow. The kind of slow that involves subtitled Russian people sitting around having philosophical conversations for hours, and makes you get up/wake up half way through to swap DVDs.
But, as with so many great films, it’s worth persevering for both the overall ambience and some incredible moments. Here’s a selection of my favourites.
I thought the Soderbergh remake was OK (aside from the unnecessary final couple of lines of dialogue), but Tarkovsky’s version manages to make a close-up of two shawls into a chilling, thought-provoking moment.
Some of the scenes in Stalker work beautifully, while much of it seems contrived or inconsistent, but I found the arrival of the silhouette-like dog oddly memorable. And you have to admire Tarkovsky’s persistence in re-shooting much of the film after problems with developing experimental stock destroyed a year’s work.
It’s hard to pick a stand-out scene from this one, as it’s essentially a string of impressive set pieces and imagery: the hot air balloon prologue, the rain, the scenery, the whole bell-forging segment, and so on. A great historical epic.
This single take seems to be widely admired, but a slightly earlier shot had me pausing and rewinding. A passing character (who doesn’t appear again) walks off across a field, then out of nowhere the wind creates a wave across the grass and he turns as it passes through him. I’m not the only one to be left pondering how it came about in the absence of CGI and wind machines. For all of his trials and tribulations in film-making, you can’t help thinking that Tarkovsky went to bed that night with a very contented smile on his face.