In This Article Andrei Tarkovsky

  • Introduction
  • Bibliography
  • Studies
  • Place in Soviet Cinema
  • Work in Other Media
  • Philosophical Themes
  • Spiritual Themes
  • Theory and Practice
  • Work with Actors
  • Documentaries
  • Art Works

Cinema and Media Studies Andrei Tarkovsky
by
Robert Bird
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0071

Introduction

Andrei Tarkovsky (b. 1932–d. 1986) was the most important director in postwar Soviet art cinema and one of the most influential auteurs in world cinema of the 1960s–1980s. After completing several student films, most notably Steamroller and Violin (1960), Tarkovsky leapt to prominence in 1962 with his first feature, Ivan’s Childhood, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival that year. His next feature, the epic-length Andrei Rublev, was completed in 1966 but shown (after enforced edits) only in 1969, at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI prize; it was released domestically only in 1971. Each of his three films of the 1970s—Solaris (1972), Mirror (1975), and Stalker (1979)—was welcomed internationally but led to new complications for Tarkovsky’s position in the Soviet film system: Solaris (based on a science fiction novel by Stanislaw Lem) was released only after changes enforced by the censors, the autobiographical and enigmatic Mirror was given only limited release, and Stalker (based on a science-fiction novel by Arkadii and Boris Strugatsky) had to be reshot after Tarkovsky controversially determined that much of the original footage had been spoiled. After filming the documentary short Tempo di viaggio (1980) with Tonino Guerra, Tarkovsky returned to Italy to make Nostalgia (1982) as a joint Soviet-Italian production. Remaining abroad without official permission, essentially as a defector, Tarkovsky directed Sacrifice (1986) in Sweden, completing the editing from his sickbed in a Paris clinic, where he died from lung cancer on 29 December 1986. Throughout his career, Tarkovsky also worked in other media, experimenting with Polaroid photography and staging productions on the radio (in 1965), in the theater (Hamlet in 1976), and in the Royal Opera House (Boris Godunov in 1983). In exile from the USSR, Tarkovsky also reedited his articles and interviews (dating as far back as 1962) into a book, known in English as Sculpting in Time, one of the best-known monographs on filmmaking by a major director. Long, slow and brooding, Tarkovsky’s seven feature films are broadly admired among cinephiles, and his charismatic figure has attracted a devoted and sometimes fanatical following, which has been known to idolize him as a spiritual teacher. Writing about Tarkovsky has sometimes been colored by this uncritical adulation, but his films are increasingly being analyzed by historians and interpretive critics for their breathtakingly original technique, poignant imagery, and continuing influence on other filmmakers.

General Overviews

There have been a large number of books treating Tarkovsky’s entire body of work in cinema, many of which highlight his status as a charismatic auteur at odds with a totalitarian state. Not all of these books make significant original contributions to our knowledge and understanding of his films themselves; some are satisfied to treat Tarkovsky as a quintessential (i.e., stereotypical) religious, mystical, poetic, or simply Russian artist.

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