Tag Archives: Andrei Tarkovsky

XL Popcorn – Zerkalo

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 622/1007
Title: The Mirror (Zerkalo)
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Year: 1975
Country: USSR

So here we are with the final of the four Andrei Tarkovsky entries on the 1001 movie list. Between this and Stalker I am going to have to admit defeat. I think that what these other people are seeing is just going over my head. It’s not that I dislike any of the films I have seen (on average I’ve given them 7/10), but I think there is something I am missing.

I am not exaggerating when I say that all of his entries on the 1001 list are extremely well regarded. Zerkalo itself finished in 9th place in a 2012 poll voted by directors to find the best movie of all time… which may go a long way to explain why I never had the urge to become an arthouse movie director.

All this preamble to try and keep some cinephile credit when Zerkalo actually turned out to be my favourite of the four.  Weirdly I think it helped that I have previously watched the 2002 film Russian Ark and read In Search of Lost TimeWhy? Well, Zerkalo is not so much a film as it is a meditation on memory. As with other pieces of modern art, the narrative is delivered as a stream of consciousness which allows for some fallibility and the ability to jump around in time/narratives/memory.

The film itself is Tarkovsky doing a loose autobiography of his father. I want to place an emphasis on loose because the film includes a woman levitating and things that, as a boy, the protagonist would not have been privy to. Still, we catch a glimpse at episode of this person’s life as well as the life of his mother.

There is no story in this film. To try and find a story or a concrete throughline is to both miss the point and become frustrated. I can see why people would dislike this if they went into the film without prior warning of it being one of those films. I mean, if I went into this expecting a ‘normal’ film I would have come out rather perplexed. As it is I came out with questions and the wish that I hadn’t watched this by myself.

So yes, that’s another of the big league directors crossed off the list. There are still many great directors to be crossed off in the 380+ films I have yet to see (including Alfred Hitchcock, Max and Marcel Ophuls, John Ford and Ingmar Berman), but that’s the joy of making my way through the list.

XL Popcorn – Stalker

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 615/1007
Title: Stalker
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Year: 1979
Country: USSR

Am I the only film lover who doesn’t get this film? I have been going around the web looking for someone that meets Stalker with a shrug… and I can’t find that person. That cinematic soulmate. So, I guess take my opinions on this film with an even bigger pinch of salt than usual.

For the sake of this 1001 list I have already watched two films by Andrei Tarkovsky (Solyaris and Andrei Rublev)There is a certain style that comes with a Tarkovsky film. They are on the slower side and lean heavy on the philosophy. Stalker is no exception to this, in fact this would probably be the most representative of his style.

On paper this should have been a film I could really get behind. A weird sci-fi mystery about a sentient plot of land (the Zone) and an area that can grant wishes (the Room) that can only be reached with the help of a special guide (a Stalker). Sounds great right?

For me, however, I didn’t really feel any of it, especially the mystery aspect. So much of this film is centred around languorous shots and talking about philosophy to really provide any tension. As the film went on and none of the supposed danger ever came to fruition there was a part of me that wondered if the dangers of the Zone was in the mind of the Stalker. As in, he has become so mentally broken (by the guilt of leaving his wife and physically disabled daughter behind as to serve his jail sentence) that this whole mythology of the Zone is inside his head.

I am pretty sure that this is not an adequate interpretation, but for me it is the only way that I can make some semblance of sense from this movie. Especially as we finish off with a to-camera monologue from his wife and an example of telekinesis from his daughter. The whole film is just unsettling, which can be an amazing thing (take Peeping Tom for example), but it didn’t work for me with Stalker.

On the whole, however, I can see how this would be a film that people would really enjoy. It’s just that this is one of those ‘slow movies’ that didn’t work for me. There doesn’t appear to be a way to predict this, it’s just how it is.

XL Popcorn – Andrei Rublev

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 595/1007
Title: Andrei Rublev
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Year: 1966
Country: Soviet Union

At the moment films are a bit like busses – after going a while barely seeing any list films I am suddenly making a few posts in rather quick succession. Not that I am complaining, in fact anything that will help me towards completing this list is always welcome (just maybe not another wrist injury).

Andrei Rublev was watched today because, according to iCheckMovies, it was the biggest film that I had yet to see. It’s one of those I have been avoiding because of the 200+ minute runtime and it being about a medieval Russian monk. It’s not that I haven’t seen good films with a religious bent (Ordet is the one that immediately comes to mind), but 3+ hours is a long time to spend with a monk in bleak surroundings (like in Red Psalm… I think… can’t remember too much about that film).

I think I gave Andrei Rublev a bit of an injustice there. I mean, sure, it is a long film with a monk as a central character surrounded by the bleakness of medieval Russia – but it is also an interesting look at Russian history. A completely rearranged Russian history in order to satisfy Tarkovsky’s vision, but still interesting nonetheless.

The whole film is split into 8 story chapters and a final epilogue showing off the paintings of the titular monk. To be honest the first few of them drag a bit and can feel a little bit preachy with the politics of it all, but this does change in the second third of the film. For one thing there’s a massacre executed by a Tartaric army, which is slightly marred by a small sequence of a horse falling down stairs… I didn’t like that so much.

This then leads into the final and longest act of the movie – surrounding the casting of a new bronze bell. Doesn’t sound too interesting, but it acts as a incredibly well done culmination of the previous two hours. Especially the tension that builds when they have to test the bell out.

To many critics Andrei Rublev is one of the best films ever made. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as to agree with this sentiment, it is one of those films that I feel will stand me in good stead when talking with other film lovers.