In a string of visionary films that challenged audience’s perceptions of time and space, Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky created a cinematic language all his own—one that has gone on to be enormously influential on generations of filmmakers around the world. Ranging from the medieval drama Andrei Rublev to meditative sci-fi epics like Solaris and Stalker, his masterpieces are consistent in their astonishing ambition and profound insights on spirituality and metaphysical experience. On what would have been his eighty-sixth birthday, we’re celebrating his legacy with a look back at some of the essays and videos we’ve published on his work.
- Tarkovsky’s career began on a high note with his 1962 debut feature, Ivan’s Childhood, a harrowing portrait of a boy’s war-ravaged youth. As Dina Iordanova notes, “this austere, minimalist, and poetic film was the first major accomplishment in an oeuvre that would become one of Russia’s main contributions to the treasury of world cinema.”
- In an interview for our release of Ivan’s Childhood, scholar Vida T. Johnson looks at the thin line between the real and the imagined in the director’s work.
- In 1966, Tarkovsky explored the life of one of Russia’s greatest painters, and the result, Andrei Rublev, is “at once humble and cosmic,” writes J. Hoberman. “This is a portrait of an artist in which no one lifts a brush. The patterns are God’s, a close-up of spilled paint swirling into pond water or the clods of dirt Rublev flings against a whitewashed wall. But no movie has ever attached greater significance to the artist’s role. It’s as though Rublev’s presence justifies creation.”
- “Solaris helped initiate a genre that has become an art-house staple: the drama of grief and partial recovery,” writes Philip Lopate on the director’s 1972 sci-fi masterpiece. “Watching this 166-minute work is like catching a fever, with night sweats and eventual cooling brow.”
- In the below video, Tarkovsky has some advice for young people:
- During a period of great heartache and uncertainty in his life, Tarkovsky made his final Soviet film, Stalker. Among its most remarkable qualities is his exquisite approach to shooting his actors. As Mark Le Fanu writes, “Tarkovsky seems to have found a way of photographing the human head—animated and in repose—as it had never been photographed before. He makes it monumental: sculptural and philosophical.”
- Writer Geoff Dyer discusses the visual and sonic elements in one of Stalker’s most haunting sequences.