Tarkovsky was tormented by his Soviet-enforced exile from his homeland Russia at the time he made this masterpiece, and the nostalgia he felt was more than for his own home - it was a nostalgia for the spiritual world that is absent in so much of modern life. It is supremely ironic he and his main character - a bitter Russian writer - felt nostalgia for the spirit in one of the most "spiritual" places on earth - Italy. And yet it is frighteningly appropriate today.
There is none of the borrowing from other mediums - whether literature, theater or painting - that is common with other so-called art films. This film is the purest cinema that can exist, because everything is done as an image from reality - a reality that exists in the character's own world, and is transfered to the viewer's by means of the most intense visual imagination.
The actors are so perfect in their roles that they do not seem to be acting at all. That is always a hallmark of Tarkovsky's films - utter realism of human behavior, without the slightest trace of fakery.
Ingmar Bergman called this master of cinema the greatest of all filmmakers, and this is probably his greatest film. It is essential to anyone interested in the medium.
Tarkovsky dedicated this film to his mother. As usual there are wonderfully composed shots worthy of Vermeer or El Greco ( No, not Van Gogh, he's too bright, colorful and explosive. ) The camera dollies slowly from left to right, and sometimes, for the sake of a slower pace, back along the same track from right to left. Often we get gothic archways, raindrops and mist. There are also actors but they appear secondary to the camera. The color goes from black and white to twilight blue to full color and back again to black and white. Did I mention slowly?
But what's the heck's the story?
There is one, really. But Tarkovsky's style is a knockout punch in the final round. The rest is a set up, albeit a sumptuosly photographed one. Don't even try to anticipate the conflict or what's coming next. Just groove on the 'paintings' on film and let him take you for a ride.
I've said what it meant to me and will only add that the climax---which sounds absurd if you try to explain it----kept me in great suspense. Damn! Will he or won't he manage to take the lighted candle across the pool on the third try?
I felt as if the fate of all humanity depended on it. Or perhaps it was a futile but noble gesture, Or an allegory on all art. I don't know but I wish I did, it kept me on the edge of my seat.
Better than Rublev and far, far better that The Sacrifice.Read more ›