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
The Zone is a very complicated system of traps, and they’re all deadly. I don’t know what’s going on here in the absence of people, but the moment someone shows up, everything comes into motion. Old traps disappear and new ones emerge. Safe spots become impassable. Now your path is easy, now it’s hopelessly involved. That’s the Zone. It may even seem capricious. But it is what we’ve made it with our condition. It happened that people had to stop halfway and go back. Some of them even died on the very threshold of the room. But everything that’s going on here depends not on the Zone, but on us! [..] I think it lets those pass who… have lost all hope. Not good or bad, but wretched people. But even the most wretched will die if they don’t know how to behave. -Stalker (1979)
“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.”
I have come across actors who right up to the end could not bring themselves to trust completely in my reading of their role; for some reason they kept straining to direct their own parts, taking them out of the context of the film. I regard that kind of actor as less than professional. My idea of the real screen actor is someone capable of accepting whatever rules of the game are put to him, easily and naturally, with no sign of strain; to remain spontaneous in his reactions to any improvised situation. I am not interested in working with any other kind of actor, for he will never play anything beyond more or less simplified commonplaces.
In this connection, what a brilliant actor the late Anatoly Solonitsyn was, and how I miss him now.
“An artist never works under ideal conditions. If they existed, his work wouldn’t exist, for the artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Some sort of pressure must exist. The artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”
—Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986)
The Hunters in the Snow (Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565; oil on panel)
The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)