ADSactly Film: Tarkovski - The Cinema in Search of Spirituality

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Tarkovski during a shooting Source

Greetings, friends of @ADSactly.

Cinema, after literature, is one of my passions. In December 2019, I went back to one of the films that have influenced me the most, Andrei Rubliov, by Russian film director Andrei Tarkovski, and I remembered that I hadn't read a book I had owned a few years ago about him. From the combination of my interest and the reading of this one, I decided to rewrite a post, which I now deliver to you.

...only beauty is both divine and perceptible.
That is why it is the path that leads the artist to the spirit.

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

Andrei Tarkovski, who would become a contemporary classic of cinema, referring to his latest film "The Sacrifice", asked the following question: "Is there a space, even a tiny one, for spiritual life in our culture? Tarkovski, born in the former USSR in 1932, had been forced into exile after making his film Stalker in 1979, after being confronted with Soviet censorship. He had previously filmed The Violin and the Flattening Machine (1960), Ivan's Childhood (1962), Andrei Rubliov (1966), Solaris (1972) and The Mirror (1975). Outside his land he would shoot Nostalgia (1983) and The Sacrifice in 1986, the year of his death.

All his films assume a dense and disconcerting reflection on the human condition, a vision marked by that metaphysical sense of life that permeates traditional Russian thought, of which Dostoyevsky is a disturbing expression. Tarkovsky returns to the questions that have troubled human subjectivity throughout the ages, concerns that are sometimes forgotten, covered up or underestimated. The loss of the mystery and the division of nature, the emptiness and the unrevealed secrets, the sense of time and the absolute, remove Tarkovsky's sensitivity, but he does not give us answers. His cinema is not about ideas but about the needs of the spectator so that he can imagine himself in front of this world, digging into its abysses and into its memory. He wanted viewers to ask themselves about the complexity of existence and its sacred character, about the relationship with nature - which he conceived as the great Mother - and its connection with human interiority.

Photogram of Ivan's childhood Source)

Like his characters, Tarkovski is a nostalgic and torn seeker of spirituality, of access to another dimension of being. Beyond the knowledge of the ancient Christian tradition in Russia, this spirituality in the filmmaker has no institutional religious labels, which tend to strangle every adventure of the soul. However, there is no doubt that the great question of meaning, which for Tarkovsky, as Colmenares points out, is the sacred, disturbed him:

Perhaps for Tarkovski sense could be defined as the direction of the soul.

In the same way, the possible re-encounter of the spirituality of existence is opposed to the blind and expansionist imperative of the material, of the progressive and technocratic threat. For Tarkovski this possibility seems to have a privileged place in art, understood in its most open sense. When asked in an interview about his decision to leave the USSR, Tarkovski said: "[...] the leaders of my country do not tolerate art, because art is beauty, and beauty leads, through meditation, to God".

Two quotes from Tarkovski, from his book Sculpting in time (quoted by Comenares) are central in bringing us closer to his conception:

Art is a symbol of this world linked to that absolute, spiritual, hidden truth.

The beautiful is hidden from the eyes of those who do not seek the truth.

The image is the poetic reflection of life itself, it is a parable. We cannot embrace the unembraceable, but an image and a parable can.

His deep and sharp reflections on the nature of art and its spiritual function are typical of someone who had not only read the great thinkers, but more so of a person who had become problematic in his work and sought answers in it. Lucidity that was expressed in his film work. His vision of art and the artist is shown by Tarkovsky in his film Andrei Rubliov. Through the narration of the life of an icon painter of the 15th century, the author presents us with the challenge of the artist in front of the "rough and vile truth" of reality, and art as the "sacred awareness of a high spiritual duty".

Frame by Andrei Rubliov Source

Frame by Andrei Rubliov Source

This awareness, essential in Tarkovsky, will be continued in all his film work, obviously in accordance with the genre and history of each film, as it happens explicitly in Stalker, Nostalgia and Sacrifice, films we cannot talk about this time, but I offer you some images.


Frame from Stalker Source


Frame of Nostalgia Source


Frame of Nostalgia Source


Frame of The Sacrifice Source

(If you want to access more information about the filmmaker and his films, you can go here)

Bibliographical reference:

Colmenares U., Nenúfar (2009). Posthumous glow. The religious in Tarkovski. Venezuela: Monte Ávila Editores.

Writer: @josemalavem



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Andrei Tarkovski is one of the most important filmmakers in history, even though he made few films. A classic and reference of good cinema. I've seen some of his films and I always have the idea of seeing more than just good cinema, seeing a work of art. Maybe it's because of the fact that those films I've seen are in black and white, or because of the photography, the weather or the very spiritual themes. . Thank you for this tribute, @josemalavem.

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Thanks for your comment, @nancybriti. Yes, when we see Tarkovski's films we must assume that we are in front of the work of a great artist and a deep thinker, of the stature of Ingmar Bergman, for giving an important reference in his influences. It's a pity that he died relatively young, having still a lot to give. And he is so well known to us in the general public. Greetings.

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