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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