Close Up

2 March - 22 April 2019: Close-Up on Andrei Tarkovsky


"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

This programme presents Tarkovsky's seven masterpieces, coinciding with our season on his close friend Sergei Parajanov.

Ivan's Childhood
Andrei Tarkovsky, 1962, 96 min
Russian with English subtitles

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. read more

Andrei Rublev
Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966, 145 min
Russian with English subtitles

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. read more

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972, 165 min
Russian with English subtitles

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. read more

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974, 102 min
Russian with English subtitles

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. read more

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979, 163 min
Russian with English subtitles

New digital restoration, made in collaboration with the film's camera operator from the original negatives.

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. read more

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1983, 125 min
Italian & Russian with English subtitles

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. read more

Voyage in Time
Tonino Guerra & Andrei Tarkovsky, 1983, 62 min
Russian and Italian with English subtitles

Filmed as Tarkovsky conceptualized Nostalghia with famed Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra, Voyage in Time is an exterior portrait of the Russian director’s creative process and a document of his dislocation. A relaxed atmosphere prevails as the denim-clad auteur reflects on his favorite filmmakers and Guerra reads from his poetry. They travel Italy together on a quixotic search for possible locations; after touring cathedrals and palaces, Tarkovsky finally responds most to a darkened hotel room. The documentary conveys the supreme importance of setting in Tarkovsky’s films, with the added poignancy that as the director comes to terms with the place of Italy in his upcoming film he is also struggling to understand his own place in Italy.

The Sacrifice

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1986, 149 min
Swedish with English subtitles

To conclude our season we will present Tarkovsky's last visionary masterpiece The Sacrifice, which unfolds in the hours before a nuclear holocaust. 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. read more

One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich

Chris Marker, 1999, 55 min

Chris Marker’s One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich is perhaps the best film yet made by one (great) film-maker about another. A revelatory document, loving, lucid and lyrical, on the elemental structuring of Tarkovsky’s work, it marries moving footage of the terminally ill director shooting and struggling to finish his final film The Sacrifice with an exemplary assessment of the films and their importance, humane, humble and always open. In its own essential way, it too is a masterpiece.

Hard to Be a God
Aleksei German, 2013, 170 min
Russian with English subtitles

A work of staggeringly visceral cinema, the epic, phantasmagoric final film of late Russian cinema god Aleksei German imagines a world in which the Renaissance never happened. Adapted from a cult science-fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky – who penned the source novel and screenplay for Tarkovsky’s Stalker – the film is set on an alien planet mired in the savagery and squalor of a never-ending Middle Ages. A team of undercover scientists from Earth, including protagonist Don Rumata (Leonid Yarmolnik), is there to observe but not interfere. German’s pet project was decades in gestation; he wrote a first screenplay in 1968, finally shot the film between 2000 and 2006, and was years into post-production when he died in 2013. The film’s immersive, in-the-muck canvas – German stuffs his black-and-white frame with breathtaking levels of detail – owes precious little to space opera and much to the art of Bruegel and Bosch.

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