Andrei Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Filmmakers: Sacrifice Yourself for Cinema

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.

via Biblioklept

Related Content:

Tarkovsky Films Now Free Online

Tarkovsky’s Solaris Revisited

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Very First Films: Three Student Films, 1956-1960

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (10)
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  • Sputters says:

    Yeah, like Tarentino?

  • Each filmmaker has his own pass. Tarkovsky offers commentary as seen by him through his own pass. Mind you, that the Master never faced a dilemma of what to eat in the event of his sacrifice to cinema gone to far, although without a lot of money, he always had something to eat and a lot of vodka with it.

    • Irina Gatsalova says:

      I think he’s trying to say that one shouldn’t make a movie about something you haven’t personally experienced, because then you couldn’t have a real vision about it. Stick to what you know, your past, present, your surroundings… I don’t see the coherence/ relation of your reply…

  • Mayakovsky says:

    Try this Vassily: and then say he got a lot of money…

  • 최지우 says:

    Colin 씨, 안녕하세요. This is James from KCC class. I would bet that I’m more of a Marker 홍상수 and Tarkovsky fan than you are! ^^ I just happened to randomly come across your really cool website as I was being a cinephile and looking up filmmaking ‘craft’. I always remembered you talking about your podcasts but for the first time I’m discovering them for myself, all the more powerful. Your website is an inspiration. You have really good taste in films and it’s great to see that. Keep up the selfless work! 그럼 다음 학기에 뵙겠습니다. 우리 시간 되면 영화에대해서 이야기 해요.


  • nikhil says:

    Contrary to his belief, isn’t cinema an art where one can create worlds that don’t exist? So why limit it to what one has personally experienced… Just a thought.

  • Adim Phukan says:

    I would completely agree with Tarkovskys point. One should make films with an extreme personal connection whether real or imaginary otherwise you cannot be true to the subject. My first film After Paris is my full length own life story. With some extremely private stuff depicted. Hardly many people have seen it. But I have again and again revisited it. And so have people close to me. So cheers to that. Hail Tarkovsky!!!

  • soumik biswas says:

    Not only film but the thought of involving personal interpretation goes for any form of artistic expression. It takes a lot to make films like Stalker,Sacrifice,Ivan’s childhood..I mean,it requires deep transformation of human soul,even to express reportage or a social commentary..

  • Steve Hunyi says:

    I discovered this year how as a filmmaker it takes a piece of me – and my life – with each new creation.

    Symbiosis, I think.

    Thanks for your illuminating piece.


  • Justin says:

    Maybe thats because Russia actually offers a National Arts program like most of the World except for the US, to help fund artists of all types.

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