It is a mistake to talk about the artist “looking for” his subject. In fact, the subject grows within him like a fruit and begins to demand expression. It is like childbirth. The poet has nothing to be proud of: he is not master of the situation, but a servant. Creative work is his only possible form of existence, and his every work is like a deed he has no power to annul. For him to be aware that the sequence of such deeds is due and ripe, that it lies in the very nature of things, he has to have faith in the idea; for only faith interlocks the system of images (for which read: system of life.)
Andrei Tarkovsky on September 8, 1962, at the Venice Film Festival with the Golden Lion award for Ivan’s Childhood.
Andrei Tarkovsky with his wife Irma Raush at the Venice Film festival, 1962, for Ivan’s Childhood.
What is Bresson’s genre? He doesn’t have one. Bresson is Bresson. He is a genre in himself. Antonioni, Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Dovzhenko, Vigo, Mizoguchi, Buñuel—each is identified with himself. The very concept of genre is as cold as the tomb. And is Chaplin—comedy? No: he is Chaplin, pure and simple; a unique phenomenon, never to be repeated. He is unadulterated hyperbole; but above all he stuns us at every moment of his screen existence with the truth of his hero’s behavior. In the most absurd situation Chaplin is completely natural; and that is why he is funny. His hero seems not to notice the hyperbolized world around him, nor its weird logic. Chaplin is such a classic, so complete in himself, that he might have died three hundred years ago.
What could be more ridiculous or less probable than someone starting inadvertently to eat, along with his spaghetti, paper streamers hanging down from the ceiling? Yet with Chaplin the action is live, naturalistic. We know the whole thing is made up and exaggerated, but in his performance the hyperbole is utterly naturalistic and probable, and therefore convincing—and superbly funny. He doesn’t play. He lives those idiotic situations, is an organic part of them.
— Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time
“Erland going up and down the ladder like a firefighter, grumbling that he had never in his life had to work out as much as during the shooting of Tarkovsky’s film and complaining that he would soon have the biceps of King Kong. Kerstin Eriksdotter suggested that we rename the film The Ladder. ‘Why not? The Ladder sound rather good,’ Andrei agreed, adding: ‘Gogol asked for a ladder before he died.’”
“For a long time, Sven Nykvist was puzzled by Andrei’s constant peering through the lens. It even bothered him, until Andrei explained to him that only after looking through the viewfinder of the camera was he able to visualise the mise-en-scène .”
“Alexander dreams he is picking small coins out of sticky mud. ‘When you see money in a dream, it portends tears,’ Andrei would say. Apparently, it was a recurring dream of his.”
“Russian filmmakers have a custom: on the first day’s shoot they smash a bottle of champagne (like when a ship is launched). Andrei reassured the worried Swedes that his intent was not to consume it, but to break it for the success of the film. On the first attempt, the bottle would not shatter. ‘It’s a bad omen,’ Andrei whispered to me, requesting me not to translate it into Swedish… Yet, the significance of the moment was not lost on anyone present.”