FILM-PHILOSOPHY

ISSN 1466-4615

Vol. 4 No. 4, February 2000

 


 

Donato Totaro

Art For All 'Time'

 


 

 

Andrey Tarkovsky

_Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema_

Translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair

Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996

ISBN: 0-292-77624-1

255 pp.

 

Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) died of cancer a few months after the release of his seventh feature film, _The Sacrifice_. Tarkovsky's relatively small film output can be largely traced to the difficulties he incurred with the Soviet film industry. [1] In between the long intervals in getting projects approved and films made, Tarkovsky wrote _Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema_. I was originally drawn to his book and continue to draw inspiration from it for several reasons. Firstly, it expresses a motivational and spiritual vision of art which, in today's media-saturated, market-driven film industry, feels like a necessary wake-up call. In an era where the words art and cinema rarely appear together, or, if so, are met with raised eyebrows by cultural and media studies pundits alike, it is refreshing to read someone as dedicated and impassioned an 'artist' as Tarkovsky was. Secondly, for all of its lofty ideals, the book holds practical value for filmmaking.

 

The book, which served partly as a cathartic release of creative energy during his periods of inactivity, is at once an impassioned defense of his uncompromising cinema, a treatise on the moral and spiritual function of art in modern society, and a theoretical exploration of encountered practical and aesthetic problems. The resulting work is a unique blend of classical realist aesthetic (long take, depth of field, moving camera, opposition to montage principles) with an infusion of Romanticist aesthetics and personal spiritualism (Tarkovsky is never very far away from a discussion on aesthetics, art, religion, and/or morality). In the introduction, Tarkovsky tells us that he read and reread books on film theory and that they all left him unsatisfied (never mentioning specific titles or names). As a result of this dissatisfaction he felt the urge to present his own theoretical musings on film. Because the book was written over several years it is not a tightly organised theoretical work. Yet one can piece together an intelligent and sensitive voice that can be problematically positioned within the classical film theory discourse of realism versus formalism (or creationism) -- Andre Bazin, Siegfried Kracauer, Sergei Eisenstein, Rudolf Arnheim, Bela Balazs, Jean Mitry, V. F. Perkins, etc.

 

In charting the course of Russian film history one will find a series of important connections between filmmaker and theorist. The names Lev Kuleshov, Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Dziga Vertov stand out as prominent figures in the evolution of film language, theory, and politics. Although these filmmaker/theorists are not singular in their visions, they had in common the belief that montage is cinema's main formative principle. Tarkovsky can be seen as continuing in this rich tradition of Russian filmmaker/theorist, but re-routing its course.

 

The change in course is best plotted against early Eisenstein. In the essay 'The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram', written in 1929, Eisenstein states: 'Cinematography is, first and foremost, montage' (28). Many decades later Tarkovsky replies: 'Nor can I accept the notion that editing is the main formative element of film, as the protagonists of 'montage cinema', following Kuleshov and Eisenstein, maintained in the twenties, as if film was made on the editing table' (114). In contrast to classic Soviet Film theory dogma, Tarkovsky does not believe that montage, collage or the interplay of concepts is the end design of art. In most summaries of film theory the aforementioned Russians are lumped together as formalists and opposed to the realist dictums of Kracauer and Bazin. It is tempting to follow this neat opposition and classify Tarkovsky a realist. However, given Tarkovsky's expressionistic (subjectivity) and Romanticist tendencies this remains highly problematic.

 

Tarkovsky's film theory is suggestively at odds with the convention in realist film theory which states the filmmaker's intervention must play a subservient role to the mechanical nature of the camera. The filmmaker, according to both Bazin and Kracauer, must be an honest observer of reality. Tarkovsky also believes that 'cinema is an art which operates with reality' and not against it (177). Tarkovsky writes, 'the basic element of cinema, running through it from its tiniest cell, is observation' (66). So far his position is quite within the conventions of realist film theory. But what exactly does Tarkovsky mean by 'cinema image'? Tarkovsky's notion of cinema image is a combination of what the camera records mechanically and the filmmaker's vision that shapes it: 'The image is indivisible and elusive, dependent upon our consciousness and on the real world it seeks to embody' (106). Which is why Tarkovsky collapses the objectivity of the camera with the subjectivity of the filmmaker:

 

'In cinema it is all the more the case that observation is the first principle of the image . . . But by no means every film shot can aspire to being an image of the world . . . Naturalistically recorded facts are in themselves utterly inadequate to the creation of the cinematic image. The image in cinema is based on the ability to present as an observation one's own perception of an object'. (107)

 

The difference between Tarkovsky's theory and classical realist theory is perhaps most evident in the following quote from Siegfried Kracauer's _Theory of Film_: 'All this means that films cling to the surface of things. They seem to be more cinematic, the less they focus directly on inward life, ideology, and spiritual concerns'. [2] However, Tarkovsky divides artists into those who create their inner world and those who recreate reality, and places himself in the former camp. [3] Bazin made a similar division, distinguishing filmmakers in the years 1920 to 1940 between those who place their faith in the image (formalists) and those who place it in reality (realists). [4] An examination of the respective positions would line up Tarkovsky's 'inner world' with Bazin's 'imagists'. Why is it that Tarkovsky's realism does not align with Bazin's, or Kracauer's? The answer lies in the role that Tarkovsky envisions the camera playing.

 

Kracauer believed that cinema, like photography, is naturally, or mediumistically suited to observe and record physical reality: 'Film . . . is uniquely equipped to record and reveal physical reality and, hence, gravitates toward it'. [5] For Tarkovsky reality is always filtered, and what the camera mechanically records is only a part of a greater whole, that being the interaction between what was recorded, how it was recorded, and the filmmaker's experience. So that where Kracauer and Bazin use the mechanical nature of the camera to argue for an objective, non-interventionist, non-creationist role, Tarkovsky uses it to enter the artist's subjective inner world. Tarkovsky stresses the artist's role *because* of the mechanical agency of the camera, which aligns him with Rudolf Arnheim rather than Bazin or Kracauer. However, in Tarkovsky's system this is not decisive because the 'inner world created by cinematic means always has to be taken as reality, as it were objectively established in the immediacy of the recorded moment' (118).

 

Tarkovsky thought deeply and philosophically about his work and its role in addressing what he saw as a decline in humanity's spiritual health. For Tarkovsky, art was an attempt to redress the balance between material comfort and happiness, and spiritual and creative activity; and, in modern society, stood as the last refuge for humanist and existential concern. In the opening of the fourth chapter, 'Cinema's Destined Role', Tarkovsky states that every new art is an answer to the spiritual need of its time, and must address those questions that are central to its epoch. Cinema, born of a technological invention, is the art that matches humanity's growing urge to master 'the real world' (82). But, as art, cinema must also meet humanity's spiritual needs. For people who are spiritually receptive, Tarkovsky likens the cinema experience to a purely religious experience (41). 'The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good' (43).

 

The film that best expresses Tarkovsky's philosophy of life and art is _Stalker_. The film's science fiction setting plays backdrop to the theme of modern futility. Two men, a Writer and a Scientist, are stripped of their self-confidence, spirit, faith, and ability to love. They have decayed within, just as the physical environment around them has. Their final hope is a room, nestled within a danger-ridden forbidden area known as the 'Zone', where it is said that one's deep inner wishes are granted. The titular stalker serves as a guide for the two men in their search of this wish-serving room. During the dangerous trip the stalker relates a tale about a previous stalker who had entered the room to wish his dead brother back to life. Upon returning home the stalker discovered that in place of his brother's rebirth he had become extremely wealthy. The Zone had materialised his true inner wish. Shattered by this reality, the stalker hangs himself. This fable contains insight into Tarkovsky's use of truth and reality. 'Art is realistic when it strives to express an ethical ideal. Realism is a striving for the truth' (113). As did the wish-granting room in _Stalker_, Tarkovsky is not interested in external, scientific truth or reality, but in an inner subjective truth. The room had granted the truth of the deeper self and not the apparent reality of the surface self.

 

Yet while Tarkovsky's religious feelings may be overt, they are certainly not conventional, which leaves his films open to multifarious spiritual meanings (from Christian, to Pantheism, to Fideism, to Humanism). Peter Green has claimed that Tarkovsky's religious feelings were 'a curious mixture of orthodox Christianity, fundamentalism, Messianic vision and freethinking'. [6] That Tarkovsky's religious/spiritual undertaking was very personal and idiosyncratic is evident in the ease with which he maintained a consistency of vision through the varying Christian countries that he worked in: Russian Orthodox (Russia), Roman Catholicism (Italy) and Lutheran (Sweden).

 

Though one is struck by Tarkovsky's moralist, humanist, and Christian sensibility, it is the relationship between time and art that holds the key to an understanding of his film theory and practice. 'Cinema . . . is able to record time in outward and visible signs, recognisable to the feelings. And so time becomes the very foundation of cinema' (119). For Tarkovsky, film's greatness lies in its ability to communicate the feeling of time anew, of a time sprouting there and then in front of an audience. This is what gives the cinema experience its (potentially) spiritual dimension -- what he calls a search for 'lost time' (which he mentions on at least three separate occasions, pages 63, 82-83, and 179).

 

Tarkovsky goes back to Lumiere's _Arrivee d'un Train_ as the moment when a new aesthetic principle in art was born: 'the ability to take an impression of time' (62). Out of this ability to imprint time grows the cornerstone of Tarkovsky's aesthetics: rhythm. This rhythm is not achieved by calculated editing but by the sense of time, which Tarkovsky calls time-thrust or time-pressure, flowing through a shot: 'The distinctive time running through the shots makes the rhythm . . . rhythm is not determined by the length of the edited pieces, but by the pressure of the time that runs through them'. (117) Tarkovsky's time-pressure or time-thrust, difficult to define in precise, analytical terms, is often predicated on the spontaneous rhythms of nature and its forces: water, rain, wind, fire, fog, snow, and vegetation:

 

'Rhythm in cinema is conveyed by the life of the object visibly recorded in the frame. Just as from the quivering of a reed you can tell what sort of current, what pressure there is in a river, in the same way we know the movement of time from the flow of the life-process reproduced in the shot'. (120)

 

Examples of the above abound in Tarkovsky's films. To what extent varies, but in most cases Tarkovsky's mise en scene works with and against the rhythmic flow of natural phenomena. The appearance of life-processes in Tarkovsky's mise en scene form a powerful visual tapestry that goes beyond theme or imagery to form and aesthetics. In fact only a handful of filmmakers can be said to have consistently matched Tarkovsky's emotional and aesthetic reliance on nature (Robert Flaherty, Alexander Dovzhenko, Jean Renoir, Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Stan Brakhage, Chen Kaige).

 

Tarkovsky's 'rhythm', often guided by elements of nature, is an internally felt sensation of time achieved by more than just the length of the take or pace of the camera movement, but by the entire mise en scene. This includes the actions of the characters, the delivery of dialogue, the attention to objects and empty spaces, the soundtrack, the tone and grain of the film stock, and the indistinguishable play between color and black and white. Tarkovsky increasingly came to believe that the long take was the ultimate tool for communicating this rhythm (time-pressure), and to serve as an agent of aesthetic, dramatic and spiritual temporality. In fact, Tarkovsky claimed that his theoretical working principle for _Stalker_ was to maintain the unity of time, space, and action. To make it seem as if there were no time lapse between shots; in effect, wanting the film to appear as if it were one shot, a segment of indivisible time (193-194). One could witness this reaching its pinnacle in the notorious penultimate long take of his final film, _The Sacrifice_. But this concentration on time-pressure was a theoretical ideal, and one that Tarkovsky admits he did not always attain.

 

Editing still plays an important part in Tarkovsky's aesthetics but its creativity comes from matching the varying time-pressures already established in each shot and not from clever or conceptual juxtapositioning. For example, in _Mirror_, his most complex film structurally, Tarkovsky combines historical and personal time by intercutting childhood memory and political and cultural history: the Spanish Civil War, Russia-Germany in WW2, the Cultural Revolution, the atomic bomb. But the editing carefully fuses these varying time capsules by matching the rhythm of the stock shots to the rhythm of the filmed shots. To such convincing effect that many people believed the stock footage of Soviet foot soldiers crossing Lake Sivash was filmed by Tarkovsky.

 

Another important aspect of Tarkovsky's aesthetic and formal system is his reliance on character psychology. According to Tarkovsky: 'Nothing in cinema at the present is more neglected or superficial than psychology. I'm talking about understanding and revealing the underlying truth of characters' states of mind.' (75) Tarkovsky stretches this consideration into mise en scene. For example, Tarkovsky is scornful of surface realism that clings to cliche forms of coded realism (i.e shaky, hand-held camera movement, out of focus shots, etc.) or the faithful reproduction of exterior fact and history (Naturalism). Tarkovsky opposes a mise en scene that directs itself toward an 'idea', to surface detail, or worse yet, cliche (a fence separating two lovers for example). A rich mise en scene 'must work from the psychological state of the characters, through the inner dynamic of the mood of the situation, and bring it all back to the truth of the one, directly observed fact, and its unique texture' (74).

 

For example, Tarkovsky tells us that for _Andrei Rublev_ he steered away from this type of surface realism by moving away from archaeological and ethnographic truth, or 'museum reconstruction' (79). Instead he used the enduring spiritual meaning of Rublev's Trinity icon as a link between the 15th and 20th centuries to 'achieve the truth of direct observation, what one might almost term psychological truth' (78). With this appeal to psychological truth we see how a tension can exist in Tarkovsky's films between a classical realist aesthetic and an overriding sensibility that may stress content, style, or imagery beyond the limits of classical realist dictum (i.e. too expressionistic).

 

Tarkovsky's discussion of time, editing, and mise en scene, exemplified in the section 'Time, rhythm and editing' (113-124), serves as an ideal introduction to Tarkovsky's films. It also holds practical value to filmmakers who may be equally concerned with ideas of shot/scene structure, rhythm, and construction, that derive from philosophical rather than purely narrative or dramaturgical sources.

 

As noted at the beginning, Tarkovsky wrote _Sculpting in Time_ in part as a response to existing film theory. A secondary impetus to the writing of the book was Tarkovsky's strong desire to defend himself against the cries of elitism that were being leveled at him by fellow filmmakers and bureaucrats with regard to his autobiographical film, _Mirror_. Right at the start of the book Tarkovsky excerpts several letters from people who felt a strong empathy toward this film. He notes: 'What kept me going through all this . . . was my growing conviction that there were people who minded about my work, and were actually waiting to see my films; only it was apparently in nobody's interest to further this contact with my audience' (9). This need to connect with his audience reflects Tarkovsky's general position on art. Following Lev Tolstoy, Tarkovsky believed in the expression theory of art, and that the greatest reward for an artist comes from the knowledge that their vision can *speak* and reach out to people: 'To be faithful to life . . . a work has for me to be at once an exact factual account and a true communication of feelings' (23). Tarkovsky's aesthetic falls squarely in the tradition of the emotion theory of art, which claims that the principal aim of art is to arouse or elicit emotions. [7] And for Tarkovsky, emotions are deeply rooted in the spiritual well of the inner self (sacrifice, love). This greatly explains the letters that appear at the beginning of the book. But in turn, it also reveals a respect for his audience that is often lacking in popular market-based approaches to film. 'For their part, audiences, I'm quite sure, are far more discerning and unpredictable in their demands than is often supposed by those responsible for the distribution of works of art. And so an artist's perception of things, however complex or rarified it may be, is able . . . to find an audience; and however small the latter may be, it will be in perfect accord with the particular work' (166).

 

Though Tarkovsky stresses the importance of communication, he accepts that not all members of an audience will connect with his form of communication. As he writes: 'The person watching either falls into your rhythm (your world), and becomes your ally, or else he does not, in which case no contact is made. And so some people become your 'own', and others remain strangers; and I think this is not only perfectly natural, but, alas, inevitable' (120). Hence he acknowledges that his particular expression of time, his rhythm, will not entrance all spectators. Which leads to a necessary ambivalence that informs his position on the art/commerce, artist/audience relationship. The fact that he does nothing specifically to appease or please an audience, yet wants fervently that his films be accepted and loved by those who see them. Tarkovsky is willing to accept this rather than attempt what for him would be unnatural: to adjust his rhythm, his handwriting, so as to reach a greater mass audience. Some may call this elitism. I prefer seeing it as an artistic integrity that is necessary to an open, tolerant filmic culture where all forms and types of cinema is readily available. Why should all films aim for the same goal? As Tarkovsky says, the great auteurs -- Fellini, Bunuel, Bergman, Antonioni, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi -- become their own genre (150).

 

The chapter where Tarkovsky is most dogmatic concerning film-as-art over film-as-commerce is chapter seven. Tarkovsky expresses art as a calling, a gift that the artist is not *free* to assume, abandon, or fritter away. Although he preaches spirituality and faith, in the end it comes down to humanity's capacity for love and sacrifice. 'I am interested above all in the character who is capable of sacrificing himself and his way of life -- regardless of whether that sacrifice is made in the name of spiritual values, or for the sake of someone else, or of his own salvation, or of all these things together' (217). Where he does revert to religious terms in his most overtly spiritual chapter, nine (_The Sacrifice_), we must keep in mind that Tarkovsky dictated these words from his deathbed, a few short weeks before dying.

 

Along with revealing his views on what makes art great and important, Tarkovsky also relates aspects of art that he holds in disdain. Such as the critical practice of judging a film based on an a priori theoretical grid. Or works of art that consciously and glaringly forefront political views, and entertainment films that offer 'fatuous pseudo-optimism' (54). Tarkovsky clearly sees the function of his art is to show the way toward a moral or ethical ideal rather than purely social or political aims. In short, to 'prepare the human soul for goodness' (165). However, this does not preclude the possibility of reading his films politically (as many have done), or seeing the political within his quest for a moral or ethical ideal. For example, one could discuss the environmental subtext in _Stalker_, _Nostalghia_, and _The Sacrifice_, or the subject of artistic exile in _Nostalghia_ and _The Sacrifice_.

 

Tarkovsky does not save himself from criticism either. As, for example, when he points to shots that he dislikes in _Mirror_ or _Nostalghia_ because they smack of literary symbolism, or are too obvious an expression of the inner world. Or the way he denigrates _Solaris_ because of its reliance on the conventions of the popular science fiction genre. But, as Tarkovsky slyly comments: 'It's unlikely that there are many works of art that embody precisely the aesthetic doctrine preached by the artist' (216). (With a hint of jealousy, Tarkovsky mentions Robert Bresson, who he admires tremendously, as the only director who consistently realized his theoretical ideal into perfect form (93-94).)

 

Turning a critical eye to questions of layout and structure, because _Sculpting in Time_ was written over a period of years it would have been beneficial if the dates of when the individual sections were initially written would have been made available to the reader. Or, in the least, an introduction by the translator or other relevant person explaining the book's temporal framework. For example, in chapter five Tarkovsky writes, 'There was a time when I could not start shooting without having devised a complete plan of the episode, but now I find that such a plan is abstract, and that it restricts the imagination' (134). But we have no way of gauging the time frame for the 'now' Tarkovsky speaks of. The edition being reviewed is the latest 1996 University of Texas Press reprint. This edition differs in its physical appearance from the original English language edition published in 1986 by Bodley Head Ltd, which was slightly smaller and featured a more attractive all black cover centered with a frame enlargement from _Nostalghia_. More importantly, this later edition includes an extra chapter (nine) on _The Sacrifice_. But by not including the original dates of the writing the reader who is unfamiliar with the first printing will be unaware that the tenth chapter (Conclusion) in this later edition was actually written before the ninth chapter. Another minor complaint is the arbitrary use of film stills scattered throughout the book that rarely match with the text on the page. And, in what seems to be an ongoing curse for Tarkovsky scholars, this latest edition still lacks an index (other key Tarkovsky books without an index are _About Andrei Tarkovsky_ and _The Diaries: Time Within Time_). These minor complaints notwithstanding, _Sculpting in Time_ will undoubtedly reward the reader with great insight into Tarkovsky's films, and into what made this genius tick when circumstances were often greatly stacked against him.

 

I would like to conclude with an observation based largely on my personal intellectual history. Tarkovsky's aesthetic and philosophical world, steeped in Russian art and culture, also bears a kinship to French 20th century thought. Most strikingly to Henri Bergson, Andre Bazin, and Gilles Deleuze. Some parallels to Bazin were noted earlier, and though this is not the place to articulate the affinity between Tarkovsky and Deleuze, there are reverberations of Tarkovsky throughout Deleuze's _Cinema 2: The Time-Image_ that lead me to speculate that Tarkovsky's writings left a formidable impression on Deleuze. [8] In the least, there is a spiritual kinship between Deleuze's noted shift from movement-image to time-image, and Tarkovsky's views on cinema as *sculpting in time*. For example, the position of editing within Tarkovsky's aesthetics is similar (though not identical) to the position it holds in Deleuze's film writing. Whereas for Tarkovsky editing should not add to the temporality already established in a shot, in Deleuze's movement-image editing can only express an 'indirect image of time'. [9]

 

To my mind, the writer that Tarkovsky is closest in spirit to is the French philosopher Henri Bergson. [10] To begin, for both Bergson and Tarkovsky the concept of human time, divorced from linear, objective clock-time, played a tantamount and inspirational role in their respective works. This flow of time represented for both of them a life of ceaseless change and of singular, unique events. Beyond the role of time, they shared an epistemological dualism of intuition (or aesthetics) and intellect (or science), and greatly valued the former. They both saw art as a medium for showing us glimpses of spiritual truths veiled by the pragmatic, utilitarian nature of everyday existence. They both looked to the inner world of consciousness and memory for answers to philosophical and moral questions. They both held nebulous, and, to say the least, unorthodox religious and theological beliefs, and similar positions against the excessive material gains and wants of modern, technological society. They both opposed fragmentation -- Bergson of time and Tarkovsky of film form (editing). Both saw grave limitations when applying symbols and abstract language to an understanding of reality and art. And they both believed strongly that the path toward a kinder, more harmonious world begins with the selfless act of sacrifice.

 

However, I have never come across anything that would suggest that Tarkovsky read Bergson first hand, or even knew of him. [11] It is probably just a case of two like-minded souls who happened to share a common worldview. Yet, sometimes such intellectual pairings are pleasantly rewarded by odd, unexpected coincidences. One such coincidence occurs in the similarity of the very last words written by both Bergson and Tarkovsky. The two following quotes come from, respectively, the final paragraphs of Bergson's last book, _Two Sources of Religion and Morality_, written in 1941, and Tarkovsky's _Sculpting in Time_, written sometime prior to 1986:

 

'Mankind lies groaning, half crushed beneath the weight of its own progress. Men do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands. Theirs is the task of determining first of all whether they want to go on living or not. Theirs the responsibility, then, for deciding if they want merely to live, or intend to make just the extra effort required for fulfilling, even on their refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, which is a machine for the making of gods'. [12]

 

'We all live in the world as we imagine it, as we create it. And so, instead of enjoying its benefits, we are the victims of its defects . . . I would enjoin the reader -- confiding in him utterly -- to believe that the one thing that mankind has ever created in a spirit of self-surrender is the artistic image. Perhaps the meaning of all human activity lies in the artistic consciousness, in the pointless and selfless creative act? Perhaps our capacity to create is evidence that we ourselves were created in the image and likeness of God?' (241)

 

In a fascinating discussion on aesthetics, Tarkovsky makes a telling point on the question of perfection in art: 'Beauty is in the balance of the parts. And the paradox is that the more perfect the work, the more clearly does one feel the absence of any associations generated by it' (47). To further this point he notes Russian writer Dimitri Merezhkovsky's critique of the lengthy passages in Tolstoy's _War and Peace_ where characters engage in philosophy. Though Tarkovsky notes that Merezhkovsky's criticism is based on sound reasoning, he admits that these passages, even if they are 'a mistake', do not stop him from loving _War and Peace_, (56). We can relate this to those aspects of Tarkovsky's later works that even Tarkovsky-philes see as being problematic: long philosophical discussions between characters, and rigidly held positions on faith and morality. The end point is that great works of art must be accepted with their weaknesses and imperfections. In the same breath, there are elements of Tarkovsky's art and personality that I do not share or fully understand, such as his disdain for popular genre, his martyrdom complex, and his archaic gender politics. However, if these are necessary aspects of his creative whole, then it is a price I am willing to accept for his inimitable art.

 

University of Warwick, Coventry, England

Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

 

 

Footnotes

 

1. With regards Tarkovsky's troubled history with Soviet film bureaucracy, it should be noted that none of Tarkovsky's films were ever banned outright. In their excellent book _The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky_, authors Vida T. Johnson and Graham Petrie do not deny the hardships faced by Tarkovsky, but urge that they be understood within a complex web of interrelated factors. These being: the mercurial Soviet Film policy during Tarkovsky's lifetime; interpersonal politics between Tarkovsky and Soviet Film bureaucrats which will never be fully understood; post-Glasnost cultural politics; and Tarkovsky's 'Dostoyevskian' leanings toward salvation through suffering. Sadly, there is no way to precisely measure the long-term emotional and physical effects these hardships had on Tarkovsky, who died prematurely at the age of 54.

 

2. Kracauer, _Theory of Film_, pp. x-xi.

 

3. At a conference in Rome, Tarkovsky included Bresson, Dovzhenko, Mizoguchi, Bergman, Bunuel and Kurosawa as other 'inner realists'. During the conference he showed and commented on clips from films that made strong impressions on him. They included Bresson's _Mouchette_, Bunuel's _Nazarin_, Antonioni's _La Notte_, and Kurosawa's _The Seven Samurai_.

 

4. Bazin, _What is Cinema? Volume 1_, pp. 24-28.

 

5. Kracauer, _Theory of Film_, p. 28.

 

6. Green, _Andrei Tarkovsky_, p. 5.

 

7. A striking, surreptitious revelation of Tarkovsky's emotion theory of art comes in his discussion of _Nostalghia_, filmed in self-imposed exile in Italy: 'I have to say that when I first saw all the material shot for the film I was startled to find it was a spectacle of unrelieved gloom. This was not something I had set out to achieve . . . irrespective of my own specific theoretical intentions, the camera was obeying first and foremost my inner state during filming' (203-204).

 

8. In his _Cinema 2: The Time-Image_ Deleuze quotes Tarkovsky from an article in _Positif_, but Tarkovsky's _Sculpting in Time_ had also been translated to French, as _Le Temps scelle_. A recent book on Deleuze, _Gilles Deleuze: Vitalism and Multiplicity_ by John Marks, also compares Deleuze to Tarkovsky in explicating Deleuze's time-image.

 

9. Deleuze writes: 'Time no longer derives from the combination of movement-images (from montage), it's the other way round, movement now follows time' (_Negotiations_, pp. 51-52). If we replace 'movement' with 'editing' you are very close to Tarkovsky's notion of editing being subservient to the 'time-thrust'.

 

10. I elaborated on this kinship in my MA Thesis: 'Time, Bergson, and the Film Theory of Andrei Tarkovsky' (1990).

 

11. Tarkovsky may have gotten his Bergsonism second hand, as he does mention other writers or thinkers influenced by Bergson, such as Paul Valery and Marcel Proust. The same passion and confluence of experienced time (versus conceptual time), duration, consciousness, and memory that exists in Bergson's 'philosophy of change' exists in Tarkovsky's films and thoughts on film. Their affinity is more likely a testimony to Bergson's artistic sensibility as a philosopher and the widespread influence on the artistic community and the universality of his thoughts that are, in large part, measurable to his original crystallization of the existing aesthetic and philosophical thoughts of his times.

 

12. Bergson, _Two Sources of Religion and Morality_, p. 317.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Andre Bazin, _What is Cinema? Volume 1_, trans. Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967).

 

Henri Bergson, _Two Sources of Morality and Religion_, trans. R. Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton, with the assistance of W. Horsfall Carter (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1954).

 

Gilles Deleuze, _Cinema 2: The Time-Image_, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (London: The Athlone Press, 1989).

--- _Negotiations: 1972-1990_, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).

 

Sergei Eisenstein, 'The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram' [1929], in Jay Leyda, ed. and trans., _Film Form_ (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World Inc., 1949).

 

Peter Green, _Andrei Tarkovsky: The Winding Quest_ (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993).

 

Siegfried Kracauer, _Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality_ [1960] (London: Oxford University Press, 1973).

 

 

Filmography

 

_The Steamroller and the Violin_ (Diploma film, short, 1960)

_Ivan's Childhood_ (1962)

_Andrei Rublev_ (1966-1971)

_Solaris_ (1972)

_Mirror_ (1975)

_Stalker_ (1979)

_Nostalghia_ (1983)

_The Sacrifice_ (1986)

 

 

Copyright © _Film-Philosophy_ 2000

 

Donato Totaro, 'Art For All 'Time'', _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 4 no. 4, February 2000 <http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol4-2000/n4totaro>.

 

  

 

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