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The Cinematic Poetry of Andrei Tarkovsky

In his time, Andrei Tarkovsky created seven spiritually and aesthetically transcendent films identifiable by exquisite visual imagery, mesmerizing long takes, and a near-pantheistic reverence for landscape and nature [1].

Tarkovsky’s disposition as an auteur manifests by virtue of his diverse artistic passions – varying from poetry, language, painting and music. Tarkovsky’s films feature epic musical scores ranging from Bach to Beethoven, poetic imaginary and Russian high art paintings, thus proving his luscious aesthetic tastes and love of all art forms.

Tarkovsky’s seamless cinematic synthesis of real time, dream and memory – helped redefine the possibilities of arthouse cinema. This eclectic and meticulous blend of real experiences with dreams and historical memories represents the pinnacle of poetic cinema.

In Tarkovsky’s view, cinema is a medium that encourages personal reflections and strong bonds between filmmaker and audience – and this cinematic bond leads audience and filmmaker to share collective personal, cultural and historical experiences.

When Tarkovsky references childhood and war experiences through dreams, memories and real time, he expects the audience to feel, empathize and relate to the spectacles being presented.

Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman once said of Tarkovsky’s distinct cinematic approach: “Tarkovsky for me is the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”[2]

Tarkovsky’s high artistry captures the complexity of the human condition at a level that no other filmmaker has attained before. Tarkovsky achieves cinematic poetry by incorporating long single-camera shots of beautiful landscapes, and then juxtaposing them with iconic super natural dream sequences.

For instance, Tarkovsky’s 1975 film Mirror features a shot of a mother levitating above a bed as water cascades indoors. This aesthetically beautiful spectacle is juxtaposed by scenes of breathtaking natural motifs such as rain, fire and supernatural imagery.

The nonlinear cinematic approach found in films such as Mirror and Ivan’s Childhood (1962), illustrates to us Tarkovsky’s lack of interest in distinguishing between real time, action, dream and memory.

This beautiful, authentic and poetic cinematic ethos manifests notably in Mirror, which features autobiographical and highly personal details, such as fragments of memory from Tarkovsky’s own childhood woven in with narration of his father Arseny’s poems, on time and immortality [3].

Like American Auteur Stanley Kubrick, Tarkovsky has been credited for making "trance" films — which are characterized by slow, dreamlike images and sounds that create a certain immersive and psychedelic film going Gestalt for the viewers [4].

Tarkovsky's "Trance" films are characterized by a common pattern of slow and dreamlike pacing that is often complemented with meticulous camera movements and extensive use of epic classical music.

By contrast to the Russian intellectual marxists of his time, Tarkovsky's intellectual, philosophical and artistic outlook is characterized by a degree of uncertainty, which is both mystical and intriguingly vague.

This philosophically rich outlook transcends traditionally linear approaches to conventional narrative cinema by grappling with dense philosophical themes such as love, nature, materialism and rationalism. The cinematic exploration of these dense philosophical themes often creates a certain melancholic head-cold that is complimented by poetic and tactile images that are undeniably hypnotic.

Tarkovsky's extensive filmography is often animated by a vision of lost harmony that haunts every aspect of his work. The choice of color's in Tarkovsky's works often convey's a sense of melancholy, regret and longing, as do his long tracking shots through the wilderness, which often invoke a certain expressionist minimalism.

As Tarkovsky's filmography progressed, his pessimistic, nihilistic and melancholic philosophical themes became even more prominent in his works, and this encapsulates Tarkovsky's vision of lost harmony and his desire for longing. This cinematic approach shuns modernity and capitalism — thus, underlining the need for familial and romantic human relationships that create love and harmony.


[1] "The Tarkovsky Legacy | Deep Focus | Sight & Sound." British Film Institute.

[2] "10 Great Films That Inspired Andrei Tarkovsky." British Film Institute.

[3] "Where to Begin with Andrei Tarkovsky." British Film Institute.

[4] Dempsey, Michael. "Lost Harmony: Tarkovsky's "The Mirror" and "The Stalker". Film Quarterly 35, no. 1 (1981): 12-17. doi:10.2307/1212075.


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