“Kubrick/Tarkovsky”: A Video Essay Explores the Visual Similarities Between the Two “Cinematic Giants”

Who are your favorite filmmakers? Responses to that question including the names Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky have been heard so often, for so long, that they've passed into the realm of cinephile cliché. How, then, to rediscover what about their films makes Kubrick and Tarkovsky synonymous with the very concept of the brilliant auteur? In "Kubrick/Tarkovsky" above, cinematic video essayist Vugar Efendi sheds light on the essence of these two "cinematic giants" by putting their work side by side: Eyes Wide Shut next to Ivan's ChildhoodA Clockwork Orange next to StalkerPaths of Glory next to Andrei Rublev. (You may remember a similar comparison, previously featured here on Open Culture, between Kubrick and Wes Anderson.)

Fortunately, "Kubrick/Tarkovsky" sheds only four and a half minutes of light, prolonged exposure to so many masterworks at once potentially being too much for many cinephiles to bear. For directors with such strong visions of their own, it might also come as a surprise to see such strong resonances between their images, such as Jack's walk into the Overlook Hotel's suddenly populated (and returned to the Jazz Age) ballroom from The Shining alongside Domenico's candle-bearing walk across the empty pool with a candle from Nostalghia and 2001: A Space Odyssey's journey through the "star gate" alongside Solaris' drive through Tokyo-as-humanity's-urban-future.

Kubrick appreciated Solaris enough for it to make a list of 93 films he really liked, but Tarkovsky didn't feel the same way about 2001. "A detailed ‘examination’ of the technological processes of the future transforms the emotional foundation of a film, as a work of art, into a lifeless schema with only pretensions to truth," he said in an interview before he made Solaris, describing what he would get right that Kubrick had got wrong. From just the brief clips of those pictures included in "Kubrick/Tarkovsky," even viewers who have never seen either director's films can tell how differently they realized their visions of humanity's space-voyaging future. Throughout the rest of the essay as well, each emphasis on a visual similarity comes with an emphasis on deeper difference; as one of the video's commenters astutely puts it, "Tarkovsky is dreams, Kubrick is nightmares."

Related Content:

Discover the Life & Work of Stanley Kubrick in a Sweeping Three-Hour Video Essay

How Stanley Kubrick Made His Masterpieces: An Introduction to His Obsessive Approach to Filmmaking

Signature Shots from the Films of Stanley Kubrick: One-Point Perspective

“Auteur in Space”: A Video Essay on How Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Transcends Science Fiction

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Shot by Shot: A 22-Minute Breakdown of the Director’s Filmmaking

A Poet in Cinema: Andrei Tarkovsky Reveals the Director’s Deep Thoughts on Filmmaking and Life

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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