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Tarkovsky, Andrei

Born: 4 April 1932 (Zavrazhe, Ivanono, Soviet Union/Belarus) Died: 28 December 1986 (Paris, France)
Tarkovsky, Andrei

One of the most important artists of the second half of the twentieth century, Tarkovsky was one of the few unqualified masters in the history of film. While he certainly wasn't the only great director of his generation of Soviet filmmakers, he was, like Eisenstein was to an earlier generation, its most renowned and most influential.

The son of artists- actress Maria Ivanovna and poet Arseni Tarkovski-- he studied both Arabic and geology before turning to film. He enrolled at VGIK in 1959, directed the acclaimed short The Steamroller and the Violin in 1960 and won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival for his first feature, Ivan's Childhood, in 1962. By the time he completed his second feature, Andrei Rublev, he was regarded by many as "a poet of the cinema" - and by the Soviet censors as dangerously esoteric. Unreleased in the Soviet Union until 1971 (and then only in a truncated version), Andrei Rublev was seen first at international festivals and widely praised for its episodic, loosely biographical account of the legendary Russian medieval painter. The first of his films to depict the artistic process as a prolonged crisis of faith, he looked to the elements of nature - water, fire, air - for organic abstractions of narrative and character. Whether it was within a science fiction framework (Solaris, Stalker), a parable (The Sacrifice), or an autobiographical dreamscape (The Mirror), he reworked and refined these images and themes like a sculptor working and searching for the truest expression of every medium. With Solaris (1972) - sometimes considered a humanist counterpoint to 2001: A Space Odyssey - he received his greatest exposure, and its follow-up, The Mirror - an entrancing, non-narrative memoir of mixed emotions and film stock - was perhaps his greatest achievement. After Stalker (1979), Tarkovsky left the Soviet Union to shoot Nostalgia, in Italy, and never returned. His final picture, The Sacrifice, was shot in Sweden, and deliberately employed many of Ingmar Bergman's actors and associates. At once Tarkovksys only overt homage to a filmmaker and his most nakedly confessional, The Sacrifice won four awards at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996. He died later that year of cancer. In the less than twenty years since his death, Tarkovsky's reputation continues to grow as new generations of filmmakers learn from his craft, his teachings, and his humanity.

For more information, read Tarkovsky's published writings: Sculpting in Time, still in print from University of Texas Press. Other writings, such as his journals, are available in Russian and French editions, and a version in English from Faber & Faber is out of print but accessible at libraries. The Films of Andrei Tarkovksy: A Visual Fugue, by Vida T. Johnson and Graham Petrie is in print from Indiana University Press, and offers a critical analysis of his films.

Filmography:

  • One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich/ Cinema de notre temps: une journee d'Andrei Arsenevitch, 2000; (archive footage only)
  • Andrei Tarkovskij. Vospominaniye, 1996; (archive footage only)
  • Boris Godunov, 1990; TV, (director of stage opera only)
  • The Sacrifict/Offret - Sacrificatio, 1986; (also editor)
  • Tempo di viaggio, 1983; TV,
  • Nostalghia, 1983; (as Andrey Tarkovsky)
  • Beregis, tsmej!, 1979; (screenwriter only)
  • Stalker, 1979; (uncredited as screenwriter, also production design)
  • The Mirror/ Zerkalo, 1975;
  • Solaris/ Solyaris, 1972; (screenplay)
  • Andrei Rublev/ Andrei Rublyov, 1969;
  • One Chance in One Thousand/ Odin shans iz tysyatsi, 1968; (screenwriter only)
  • Sergei Lazo, 1968; (uncredited screenwriter, editor, actor only)
  • I am Twenty/ Mne dvadtsat let, 1964; (actor only)
  • Childhood of Ivan/ Ivanovo detstvo, 1962; (uncredited as screenwriter)
  • The Skating Rink and the Violin/ Katok i skripka, 1960;
  • There Will Be No Leave Today/Segodnya uvolneniya ne budet, 1959; (as director only)
  • Extra/ Kontsentrat, 1958; (director only)
  • The Killers/ Ubijtsi, 1958; (also actor)