Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky was a filmmaker that emphatically put cinema in the realm of art. Some may take that for granted, however history tells us that film theorists were anything but unanimous on the true nature of film -- is it a representation of life? Is it art? Is it meant for the betterment of society, or the promotion of ideals? Tarkovsky's spiritual and poetic stance on cinema as art is not only what makes his work so important, but also what guided him through his filmmaking process. Continue on to hear Tarkovsky speak in several interviews and documentaries about the nature of film from his own perspective.
Studying Tarkovsky means studying much more than cinema. It means studying philosophy and pulling back the curtain on the human experience -- becoming a weekend existentialist. Though Tarkovsky's work deserves analysis on a technical level, his sensibilities as an emotional artist are well worth our study as well.
For Tarkovsky, filmmaking was an answer to the many questions he asked the world, but the biggest according to him is possibly the biggest question of all: "What is our purpose here on Earth?" According to the director, if there is a definite meaning for man's existence, art would be a vehicle to accomplish whatever that happens to be.
In this short documentary, the director explains how art, and therefore filmmaking, wouldn't exist without the imperfections of life. Tarkovsky says:
The artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn't look for harmony, but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.
Here is a (much longer) 1988 documentary that takes us behind the scenes of Tarkovsky's last film Offret. In it, not only do we get more of an idea of the director's philosophical leanings, but we also get to see him at work on-set -- an invaluable piece of film.
What do you think about the philosophy of Andrei Tarkovsky? How have his films inspired your own work? Let us know in the comments below.