Few filmmakers have been so often, or so unambiguously, called masters of the medium as Andrei Tarkovsky. In acclaimed pictures like The Mirror, Stalker, and Nostalghia (find free online versions of his films here), he realized his visions without compromise. If you can engage with these visions, watching a Tarkovsky film makes for a cinematic experience without compare. Geoff Dyer, for example, one of the director’s particularly high-profile fans, recently published Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room, a volume on nothing but watching Stalker. If you can’t engage with these visions, you may find watching a Tarkovsky film rough going indeed. (Admittedly, Nostalghia‘s nine minutes of candle-carrying requires a certain frame of mind.) But if you make films, you’d do well to consider Tarkovsky’s methods either way. The clip above from the documentary Voyage in Time offers some insight into how the man thought about his work.
First and foremost, he didn’t think about it as “work,” separate from other pursuits. “It’s not hard to learn how to glue the film, how to work a camera,” Tarkovsky says. “But the advice I can give to beginners is not to separate their work, their movie, their film, from the life they live. Not to make a difference between the movie and their own life.” These words don’t come as a surprise from a director well known for crafting deeply personal films, but one suspects that creators of any kind all too rarely find it in themselves to heed them. But Tarkovsky, always described as a thoroughly rigorous man, could have lived no other way. “Cinema is a very difficult and serious art,” he continues. “It requires sacrificing of yourself. You should belong to it, it shouldn’t belong to you. Cinema uses your life, not vice versa.” A great demand indeed, but we’d surely have a more interesting cinema if young directors accepted it. The artistic world could use more Tarkovskys.