"My films are not a personal expression but a prayer. When I make a film, it’s like a holy day. As if I were lighting a candle in front of an icon, or placing a bouquet of flowers before it. The spectator always ends up by understanding when you are sincere in what you are telling him. I don’t invent any language to appear simpler, stupider, or smarter. A lack of honesty would destroy the dialogue. Time has worked for me. When people understood that I was speaking a natural language, that I wasn’t pretending, that I didn’t take them for imbeciles, that I only say what I think, then they became interested in what I was doing."
"Given the competition with commercial cinema, a director has a particular responsibility towards his audiences. I mean by this that because of cinema’s unique power to affect an auditorium—in the identification of the screen with life—the most meaningless, unreal commercial film can have just the same kind of magical effect on the uncritical and uneducated cinema-goer as that derived by his discerning counterpart from a real film. The tragic and crucial difference is that if art can stimulate emotions and ideas, mass-appeal cinema, because of its easy, irresistible effect, extinguishes all traces of thought and feeling irrevocably. People cease to feel any need for the beautiful or the spiritual, and consume films like bottles of Coca-Cola.”
Andrei TarkovskyApril 4, 1932 — December 29, 1986

"My films are not a personal expression but a prayer. When I make a film, it’s like a holy day. As if I were lighting a candle in front of an icon, or placing a bouquet of flowers before it. The spectator always ends up by understanding when you are sincere in what you are telling him. I don’t invent any language to appear simpler, stupider, or smarter. A lack of honesty would destroy the dialogue. Time has worked for me. When people understood that I was speaking a natural language, that I wasn’t pretending, that I didn’t take them for imbeciles, that I only say what I think, then they became interested in what I was doing."

"Given the competition with commercial cinema, a director has a particular responsibility towards his audiences. I mean by this that because of cinema’s unique power to affect an auditorium—in the identification of the screen with life—the most meaningless, unreal commercial film can have just the same kind of magical effect on the uncritical and uneducated cinema-goer as that derived by his discerning counterpart from a real film. The tragic and crucial difference is that if art can stimulate emotions and ideas, mass-appeal cinema, because of its easy, irresistible effect, extinguishes all traces of thought and feeling irrevocably. People cease to feel any need for the beautiful or the spiritual, and consume films like bottles of Coca-Cola.”

Andrei Tarkovsky
April 4, 1932 — December 29, 1986


When Stan Brakhage met Andrei Tarkovsky…
“So, the leader comes through, the room’s heated up, on comes Dog Star Man, Part IV. He starts exploding in Russian the minute the hand painted frames are flickering on the screen, along with the layers of superimposition. He’s obviously raging! No one’s heard him talk so much since he’s been here. He’s hammering away in incredibly rapid Russian. He ran, in the course of an hour and a half, through every argument against my work and any other individual’s work that I have ever heard, from the Emperor’s New Clothes argument through this-is-too-rapid-it-hurts-the-eyes, through ‘this is sheer self-indulgence,’ to ‘film is only a collaborative art.’ And in detail, ‘the color is shit’ and ‘what is this paint? Why do you do this?”
“In the mean time, Jane and his wife are laughing and they’re holding hands, and smiling, like ‘isn’t this a wonderful cock fight!’ Because I must say I gave for everything I got. I ran through my whole repertoire of any kind of answer I’d ever given in the briefest and simplest way I’ve ever done. I’ve had twenty-five years of practice in being beat up in public. At one point he lashed out in a diatribe against innovation itself, which I haven’t heard before and maybe the only place you could hear it from would be Russia. The Avant-Garde crowds I’ve played to never thought of that one.”
“Then, a further irony, we all had to sit there and watch a film by a Russian emigre that Tarkovsky had promised to watch. We had to endure a stupid, senseless movie in which the Russian girl who’s fat can’t get a boyfriend or adjust to America. It felt about ten hours long although it was only half an hour. I did hear afterwards that Tarkovsky told the Russian emigre that it was the stupidest film he ever saw.“
[Telluride Gold: Brakhage meets Tarkovsky]

When Stan Brakhage met Andrei Tarkovsky…

“So, the leader comes through, the room’s heated up, on comes Dog Star Man, Part IV. He starts exploding in Russian the minute the hand painted frames are flickering on the screen, along with the layers of superimposition. He’s obviously raging! No one’s heard him talk so much since he’s been here. He’s hammering away in incredibly rapid Russian. He ran, in the course of an hour and a half, through every argument against my work and any other individual’s work that I have ever heard, from the Emperor’s New Clothes argument through this-is-too-rapid-it-hurts-the-eyes, through ‘this is sheer self-indulgence,’ to ‘film is only a collaborative art.’ And in detail, ‘the color is shit’ and ‘what is this paint? Why do you do this?”

“In the mean time, Jane and his wife are laughing and they’re holding hands, and smiling, like ‘isn’t this a wonderful cock fight!’ Because I must say I gave for everything I got. I ran through my whole repertoire of any kind of answer I’d ever given in the briefest and simplest way I’ve ever done. I’ve had twenty-five years of practice in being beat up in public. At one point he lashed out in a diatribe against innovation itself, which I haven’t heard before and maybe the only place you could hear it from would be Russia. The Avant-Garde crowds I’ve played to never thought of that one.”

“Then, a further irony, we all had to sit there and watch a film by a Russian emigre that Tarkovsky had promised to watch. We had to endure a stupid, senseless movie in which the Russian girl who’s fat can’t get a boyfriend or adjust to America. It felt about ten hours long although it was only half an hour. I did hear afterwards that Tarkovsky told the Russian emigre that it was the stupidest film he ever saw.“

[Telluride Gold: Brakhage meets Tarkovsky]


"I always recall with great gratitude and great pleasure Sergei Parajanov’s films which I love very much. He had a paradoxical and poetic way of thinking. The way he loved beauty, the way he could be absolutely free within his idea of the film." — Andrei Tarkovsky

"I always recall with great gratitude and great pleasure Sergei Parajanov’s films which I love very much. He had a paradoxical and poetic way of thinking. The way he loved beauty, the way he could be absolutely free within his idea of the film." — Andrei Tarkovsky

All the episodes were really part of our family history. All of them, without exception. The only made up episode is the illness of the narrator, the author (whom we do not see on the screen)… You are asking whether this kind of creation, this creating of one’s own world—is this truth? Well, it is truth of course but as refracted through my memory. Consider for example my childhood home which we filmed, which you see in the film—this is a set. That is, the house was reconstructed in precisely the same spot where it had stood before, many years ago. What was left there was a… not even the foundation, only a hole that had once contained it. And precisely at this spot the house was rebuilt, reconstructed from photographs. This was extremely important to me—not because I wanted to be a naturalist of some kind but because my whole personal attitude toward the film’s content depended upon it; it would have been a personal drama for me if the house had looked different. Of course the trees have grown a lot at this place, everything overgrew, we had to cut down a lot. But when I brought my mom there, who appears in several sequences, she was so moved by this sight that I understood immediately it created the right impression…

I owe everything mainly to my mother. It was she who helped me find myself. And even in the film one can clearly see our living conditions were very tough, very difficult. Such were the times. Then my mother was left alone, I was 3 years old, my sister 1 year and a half and mother was bringing us up simply all the way, she never married, she was always with us. She didn’t marry for the second time, she loved her husband, my father, all her life. She was an amazing woman, really a saint.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Solaris — dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

"…Tarkovsky gave me one of the best and most unforgettable experiences in my life and in cinema. Late in the day, in 1971, I was watching a film with Kjell Grede (a Swedish filmmaker) in a screening room from SF. Afterwards we took a look at the screening booth where a number of film cases were lying. ‘What’s that?’ I asked the projectionist. ‘Some fucking Russian film.’ And then I saw Tarkovsky’s name and told Grede: ‘Listen, I read something about this picture. We have to watch it and see what it’s all about.’ We then bribed the projectionist so that he would show it to us … And it was Andrei Rublev. And so, at about 2:30 a.m., we both came out of the screening room with gaunt eyes, wobbly, completely moved, enthusiastic, and shaken. I will never forget it. What was remarkable is that there were no Swedish subtitles! We didn’t understand one word of dialogue, but we were nonetheless overwhelmed. Tarkovsky made another film that I like a lot, The Mirror.” — Ingmar Bergman, 2002

Filmmakers as children: Luis Buñuel, Ingmar Bergman, Yasujiro Ozu, Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jacques Tati, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Stanley Kubrick.

Akira Kurosawa: There’s something to be said for black and white, and I harbor the hope of returning to it some day. A black and white film has a special quality. It’s difficult to describe, but that quality is still very much alive for me today. — 1991

Andrei Tarkovsky: I love black and white cinema; I feel as if I discovered it. Audiences are supposed to prefer color films, but I believe that color is much less realistic than black and white. We don’t normally notice color, except in the cinema where it’s somehow exaggerated. So the most ‘real’ images on film are in monochrome… For me, black and white has an unforgettable and highly expressive quality, and I will continue to make films that include a lot of black and white. — 1981

David Lynch: Black and white does have the ability to take you into a world that’s different, be it in the past as in The Elephant Man or in a parallel world as in Eraserhead. Sometimes with color it’s just too real and can’t take you there so easily and it makes things more pure. You can see eyes and ears in a totally different way, so you really see them. You see shadows and contrasts and shapes because those are the things you end up working with. You don’t see such a real picture which you glance over without a second thought. In black and white you really start to see things. It seems to make things in a way more powerful—it’s removing you from reality. — 1985

Béla Tarr: I love black and white. When you see a black-and-white picture, you know immediately it is not a realistic picture. It is not reality ‘one to one,’ because something is somehow transformed. On the other hand, I can hide a lot of things in the blackness, and I can picture white light for something which is important. I can use the whole gray scale. — 2012

Ingmar Bergman: In black and white, you have that wonderful chance to create, and have the audience to create together with you… I would like most of all if it would be possible to work in black and white, because I think black and white is the most beautiful color that exists for our minds, for our creative minds. We are involved in the creative process when we are looking at a black and white picture. — 1981

Each of these three characters represent you a little bit. They are each one-third of Tarkovsky, are they not?
Andrei Tarkovsky: Yes, but the one that pleases me the most is the Stalker. He is the best part of me, and also the part that is the least real. I feel very close to the Writer also. He is a character who has lost his way, but I feel he could find a spiritual way out of his predicament. I don’t know about the Scientist. He is a very limited person. I wouldn’t like to think that I am like him. Yet despite his obvious limitations, he does allow himself to change his mind, and he has an open mind, with the capacity for understanding.

Who will the Stalker travel with next time?
Tarkovsky: I had this idea to make another film whose main characters would be the wife, the little girl, the Writer and the Stalker. In this film, his faith has apparently disappeared and he becomes a fascist. Since no one wants to go with him, he takes people against their will.

Filmmakers photographed by Xavier Lambours.