The “Kino International” and the Hotel Berolina on Karl-Marx-Allee, East Berlin (1964)
“The close-up modifies the drama by the impact of proximity. Pain is within reach. If I stretch out my arm I touch you, and that is intimacy. I can count the eyelashes of this suffering. I would be able to taste the tears. Never before has a face turned to mine in that way. Ever closer it presses against me, and I follow it face to face. It’s not even true that there is air between us; I consume it. It is in me like a sacrament. Maximum visual acuity.”
Those who create their own worlds are generally the poets.
Tarkovsky’s films are characterised by metaphysical themes, extremely long takes, and memorable images of exceptional beauty. Recurring motifs are dreams, memory, childhood, running water accompanied by fire, rain indoors, reflections, levitation, and characters re-appearing in the foreground of long panning movements of the camera. He once said, “Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema.”
Tarkovsky included levitation scenes into several of his films, most notably Solaris. To him these scenes possess great power and are used for their photogenic value and magical inexplicability.
Water, clouds, and reflections were used by him for its surreal beauty and photogenic value, as well as its symbolism, such as waves or the form of brooks or running water.
Bells and candles are also frequent symbols. These are symbols of film, sight and sound, and Tarkovsky’s film frequently has themes of self reflection.
Tarkovsky developed a theory of cinema that he called “sculpting in time”. By this he meant that the unique characteristic of cinema as a medium was to take our experience of time and alter it. Unedited movie footage transcribes time in real time. By using long takes and few cuts in his films, he aimed to give the viewers a sense of time passing, time lost, and the relationship of one moment in time to another.
Up to, and including, his film The Mirror, Tarkovsky focused his cinematic works on exploring this theory. After The Mirror, he announced that he would focus his work on exploring the dramatic unities proposed by Aristotle: a concentrated action, happening in one place, within the span of a single day.
Several of Tarkovsky’s films have color or black and white sequences, including for example Andrei Rublev which features an epilogue in color of religious icon paintings, as well as Solaris, The Mirror, and Stalker, which feature monochrome and sepia sequences while otherwise being in color. In 1966, in an interview conducted shortly after finishing Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky dismissed color film as a “commercial gimmick” and cast doubt on the idea that contemporary films meaningfully use color. He claimed that in everyday life one does not consciously notice colors most of the time. Hence in film color should be used mainly to emphasize certain moments, but not all the time as this distracts the viewer. To him, films in color are like moving paintings or photographs, which are too beautiful to be a realistic depiction of life.
The natural elements play a large role in Tarkovsky’s films. The soundtracks often contain the sounds of water dripping while the earth seems to be perpetually damp. Fire and water are usually represented together, the burning barn from The Mirror and candle in Nostalghia being two examples. The Mirror, Stalker, and Nostalghia all contain scenes in which one or several characters lay on the earth in contemplation. Wind is also used often in The Mirror. This emphasis of moments in nature, as well as the theory of “sculpting in time” has been cited by the remodernist film movement as a major influence on their own ideas on filmmaking.
As he approaches his 90s, Ingmar Bergman is the last survivor of a generation of great European directors who brought to the cinema a new psychological depth and formal daring. This BBC presentation of a documentary on Ingmar Bergman begins with an accurate statement on the Swedish filmmaker. Except for the fact that he passed away in 2007, Bergman was a great director—I’d say one of the greatest—and he brought with his vision and style a filmography that considered not only the human experience but also the cinematic experience. When one visits an Ingmar Bergman film, he or she is getting exactly that, and to add to the beauty of this is that he directed more than forty films in his lifetime. Persona. Wild Strawberries. The Seventh Seal. There is a library of Bergman films to choose from, to fill out days and weeks, and this documentary shows why filling up your time with Bergman cinema is more than just acceptable. Ingmar Bergman is an example of the filmmaker as an artist. He became a leading light in presenting film unselfconsciously as art. From Woody Allen to Andrei Tarkovsky, Bergman’s work has had a profound effect on many people. However, only a privileged few have met and talked at length with the man himself. This documentary represents in many ways that privilege—40 precious minutes with Ingmar Bergman.
Anyone who has seen more than one Bergman film will recognise certain plot elements, settings, faces… Few artists have created their own individual universe through the use of recurrent themes, stylistic devices, settings and actors in quite the same way as Ingmar Bergman. Here is a guide to help you navigate these galaxies.