Close Up

4 - 29 December 2016: In Memoriam: Andrei Tarkovsky

Marking the 30th Anniversary of Andrei Tarkovsky’s death, we’re honoured to present four pairings of the Russian master’s films with a selection of masterpieces drawn from Second Run’s catalogue. Mehelli Modi has kindly chosen films that echo and contrast the auteur’s themes and philosophy – often in frequently surprising ways. We also present a double bill of Tarkovsky’s films produced in exile, before finally ending on the day of actual day of his passing with a special night of poetry and remembrance, featuring the extraordinary film-poem Mirror.

"Andrei Tarkovsky belongs to that handful of filmmakers (Dreyer, Bresson, Vigo, Tati) who, with a small, concentrated body of work, created a universe. Though he made only seven features, thwarted by Soviet censors and then by cancer, each honoured his ambition to crash through the surface of ordinary life and find a larger spiritual meaning: to heal modern art's secular fragmentation by infusing it with metaphysical dimension. To that end he rejected Eisensteinian montage and developed a demanding, long-take aesthetic, which he thought better able to reveal the deeper truths underlying the ephemeral, performing moment." – Phillip Lopate

Programme 1: Take Two: Ivan’s Childhood / My Way Home

Beginning our selection of Tarkovsky double bills, Second Run presents Ivan’s Childhood with the first masterpiece by acclaimed Hungarian Auteur Miklós Jancsó. Much like Tarkovsky’s own extraordinary World War II film, My Way Home delves into the devastating psychological effects of conflict on the young, to create a deeply moving and poetic view of life during wartime. read more

My Way Home
Miklós Jancsó
1964 | 98 min | B/W | Digital

In the final days of World War II, a young Hungarian is making his way home, through countryside full of the debris of war, when he is captured and imprisoned by Russians. Left in the custody of a young Russian soldier, the two youths form a friendship in spite of not speaking each other's language. The Hungarian's attempts to continue his journey homeward provide the framework for this powerful film, considered Miklós Jancsó's first masterpiece. Jancsó’s consistent vision – the psychological presence of landscape, the randomness of violence, the arbitrary nature of power – is first evident in this poetic, evocative and deeply personal work from one of cinema’s most acclaimed filmmakers.

Ivan’s Childhood
Andrei Tarkovsky
1962 | 96 min | B/W | DCP

Andrei Tarkovsky’s debut feature Ivan’s Childhood is an extraordinarily moving view of war and revenge. 12-year old Ivan is determined to avenge his family’s death at the hands of the Nazis, and he joins a Russian partisan regiment as a scout. The wonderful monochrome photography depicts Ivan’s war in a series of memorable sequences: from the opening shots of him creeping through a dead and submerged forest; the flashback to happier days by the seashore; his devastated home village, to the final sequences in the paper-strewn ruins of Berlin in 1945.

Programme 2: Take Two: Andrei Rublev / The Valley of the Bees

Second Run pairs two astounding, expansive attempts at rendering medieval life on screen – František Vláčil’s visionary and evocative epic, The Valley of the Bees, segues into Tarkovsky’ harsh and beautiful magnum opus, Andrei Rublev. read more

The Valley of the Bees
František Vláčil
1967 | 97 min | B/W | Digital

Vláčil’s fourth feature chronicles the tale of a young boy forced to join the Order of the Teutonic Knights. As he grows into a man his desire to return to his homeland leads him to abandon the Crusaders, only to be pursued by a fanatical former comrade and pay a terrible price for his rejection of the Holy Order. With its resplendent black-and-white cinematography and highly convincing recreation of 13th-century Europe, the film is a raw and haunting moral fable which raises questions about the conflict between human nature and dogmatism. Released just before the ’68 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the film’s theme was given a political interpretation and its screenings severely restricted by the authorities.

Andrei Rublev
Andrei Tarkovsky
1966 | 145 min | B/W | DCP

Immediately suppressed by the Soviets in 1966, Andrei Tarkovsky's epic masterpiece is a sweeping medieval tale of Russia's greatest icon painter. Widely regarded as Tarkovsky's finest film, Andrei Rublev charts the life of the painter through a turbulent period of 15th Century Russian history, which was marked by endless fighting between rival Princes and Tatar invasions.

Programme 3: In Exile: Nostalgia / The Sacrifice

“[The] struggle for creative control proved to be a recurring aspect of Tarkovsky’s career until finally, in the early 1980s, he felt it necessary to relocate to Europe. As a self-styled national poet, Tarkovsky perceived exile as a grave threat to his creative inspiration; and indeed, the search for meaning driving all of his films takes on a more pointed, desperate edge during his late period.” – Max Goldberg

For our third Tarkovsky double bill we present the Russian master’s final two features, both produced in self-imposed exile from his homeland. Nostalgia is a spectrally beautiful, metaphysical exploration of spiritual isolation and Russian identity; whilst The Sacrifice is a profoundly spiritual meditation on existential terror and melancholic swansong from one of cinema’s true auteurs. read more

Andrei Tarkovsky
1983 | 125 min | Colour and B/W | DCP

Andrei Gorchakov is a misanthropic Russian scholar researching the life of an exiled Russian composer who committed suicide. With the help of guide, Eugenia, Andrei visits mystical and religious sites on the trail of the late composer’s legacy. In the shadow of the composer’s memory, Andrei finds himself crippled by a melancholy nostalgia for his Russian homeland, only to discover redemption in the form of a madman, Domenico. As in Mirror, Tarkovsky weaves a dense, meditative pattern of images – freely mixing past and present, dream and reality – with the scholar and the madman acting as allegorical players in a metaphysical trial by fire and water.

The Sacrifice
Andrei Tarkovsky
1986 | 149 min | Colour and B/W | 35mm

Alexander, a retired actor, is celebrating his birthday with family and friends when a TV announcement warns of an imminent nuclear catastrophe. Alexander makes a promise to God that he will sacrifice all he holds dear, if the disaster can be averted. The next day dawns and, as if in a dream, everything is restored to normality. But Alexander must keep his vow. Among many other awards, The Sacrifice won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1986, the same year that Tarkovsky died of cancer in Paris at the age of 54.

Programme 4: Take Two: Pictures of the Old World / Stalker

Second Run presents an inspired pairing of Tarkovsky’s purest articulation of cinema as spiritual quest and Dušan Hanák’s deep exploration of human experience. Pictures of the Old World is an unquestioned masterpiece of European documentary film, with an existential radicalism rare for filmic portrayals of life on the fringes. read more

Pictures of the Old World
Dušan Hanák
1972 | 64 min | B/W | Digital

Dušan Hanák's renowned film was voted by critics as the best Slovak film of all time. Inspired by the photographs of Slovak artist Martin Martinček whose pictures distilled entire lifetimes into luminous and intransient images, Hanák created his own distinctive impressions of the artist's work in reflecting a myriad of human stories. At odds with the Communist propaganda of the time, the authorities withdrew the film from release and it remained condemned and banned for many years. Hanák's film, however, is not political or polemical but explores much more fundamental levels of human experience. Its power and beauty lie in its unique portrait of a people left behind by the modern world. A singular and shattering film.

Andrei Tarkovsky
1979 | 163 min | Colour and B/W | DCP

Deep within the Zone lies a mysterious room with the power to grant the deepest wishes of those strong enough to make the hazardous journey there. Desperate to reach it, a scientist and a writer approach the Stalker, one of the few able to navigate the Zone's menacing terrain, and begin a dangerous trek into the unknown. Hauntingly exploring man's dreams and desires, and the consequences of realising them, Stalker, adapted from Arkady & Boris Strugatsky's novel Roadside Picnic, has been described as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time.

Programme 5: Take Two: Ikarie XB-1 / Solaris

Second Run pairs Tarkovsky's deeply philosophical Stanisław Lem adaptation with Czech director Jindřich Polák's brilliant, and perhaps equally influential, version of Lem's The Magellanic Cloud. read more

Ikarie XB-1
Jindřich Polák
1963 | 83 min | B/W | Digital

Jindřich Polák’s pioneering and much-imitated feature Ikarie XB 1 is one of the cornerstones of contemporary sci-fi cinema. It predates Star Trek and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and was clearly an influence on both, as well as on almost every other science-fiction work that followed. Adapted from Stanisław Lem's 1955 novel The Magellanic Cloud, the film is set in 2163 and follows a mission deep into space in search of alien life. During their perilous journey the crew confront the effects of a malignant dark star, the destructive legacy of the 20th century and, ultimately, the limits of their own sanity. With outstanding design and cinematography, Ikarie XB 1 is imbued with a seriousness, intelligence and attention to detail rarely seen in science-fiction cinema of the period.

Andrei Tarkovsky
1972 | 165 min | Colour | DCP

Released in 1972, Solaris is Andrei Tarkovsky's third feature and his most far-reaching examination of human perceptions and failings. Ground control has been receiving strange transmissions from the three remaining residents of the Solaris space station. When cosmonaut and psychologist Kris Kelvin is sent to investigate, he experiences the strange phenomena that afflict the Solaris crew, sending him on a voyage into the darkest recesses of his own consciousness. In Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky creates a brilliantly original science-fiction epic that challenges our preconceived notions of love, truth, and humanity itself.

Programme 6: In Memoriam: Mirror

On the 30th anniversary of Andrei Tarkovsky’s passing we remember and pay tribute to his life and work; with candlelit readings of his father Arseny’s poetry, followed by a screening of Mirror – the great director's deeply personal, poetic film about childhood, dreams and remembrance. read more

Andrei Tarkovsky
1974 | 102 min | Colour and B/W | DCP

Mirror is Andrei Tarkovsky's most autobiographical work in which he reflects upon his own childhood and the destiny of the Russian people. The film's many layers intertwine real life and family relationships – Tarkovsky's father, the poet Arseny Tarkovsky reads his own poems on the soundtrack and Tarkovsky's mother appears as herself – with memories of childhood, dreams and nightmares. From the opening sequence of a boy being cured of a stammer by hypnotism, to a scene in a printing works, which encapsulates the Stalinist era, Mirror has an extraordinary resonance and repays countless viewings.