“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 Solarisdri­ve 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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