The films of Andrei Tarkovsky have been revered as ranking on a par with the masterpieces of Russia’s novelists and composers. His work, from films such as Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Mirror, Nostalgia and Sacrifice, has had an enormous influence on the style of contemporary European film, with its open narrative structures and slow, pensive mood; yet Tarkovsky has remained an elusive subject for reflection and analysis. This book is a comprehensive, well-illustrated and much-needed account of Tarkovsky’s entire film output.
Robert Bird’s analysis is centred around a detailed account of Tarkovsky’s technique, which provides the best interpretive guide to both the director’s films and his theoretical speculations. Integrating his idiosyncratic ideas with his films’ irresistible sensuality, Bird highlights Tarkovsky’s fascination with the elusive correlation between cinematic representation and the more primeval perception of the world.
The book examines Tarkovsky’s films elementally, grouping them into four sections: Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. It also discusses Tarkovsky’s works for the radio, theatre and opera, and how he was in addition an accomplished actor, screenwriter, film theorist and diarist. The author’s claim, however, is that Tarkovsky was a filmmaker before all else, and this book examines what Tarkovsky’s cinema reveals about the medium in which he worked.
A thorough yet accessible study, with a wealth of images including stills from films as well as the director and crew on set, this book will be of interest to all fans of Tarkovsky, students of film studies, and readers interested in European and Russian cinema.
Robert Bird is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago, and the author of "Andrei Rublev" (2005).
"Bird has benefited from extensive archival research and he illuminates Tarkovsky's career in sharp detail... His range of references, from classical Russian literature and philosophy to contemporary video art, is wide and refreshing, often triggering new reactions to films that are in danger of passive veneration... this is a richly argued and referenced case for Tarkovsky as heir to the symbolists' quest for spiritual enlightenment – Sight and Sound
"[an] impressive interpretive study... the book contains a rich assembly of stills and other photos throughout the text" – Cineaste
"contribute[s] valuable insights into [Tarkovsky's] work and new information about his methods... his approach is both rigorous and stimulating" – Vertigo
"In his inspired and rigorous book, Robert Bird addresses the uniqueness of Tarkovksy's cinema through a detailed exploration of the medium's constituent parts, revealing in the process the intricate ways in which film can radically shift our vision... This profound and eloquent book is a feat of regard, intuition and clarity" – Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema
"it offers many new and original insights into this director’s work. Bird’s discussion of the individual films contributes to a more detailed understanding of their production history through his use of new archive material... beautifully illustrated, and the choice of film stills, reproductions of paintingsand other images is effective and thought-provoking" – Slavonic and East European Review
"a most welcome addition to the field of Tarkovsky's scholarship... [the book] opens new avenues for interpretations hitherto obstructed by attempts to apply rigid readings or theoretical approaches to the filmmaker's oeuvre... Bird articulates clearly the meaning of images and interprets Tarkovsky's films lucidly" – Canadian Slavonic Papers-Revue canadienne des slavistes
"a major contribution to the literature on the filmmaker. Bird is thoroughly familiar with Russian sources unavailable to English readers and he has a remarkable sensitivity to the nuances of cinematic construction. His writing is lucid and consistently illuminates Tarkovksy's central preoccupation: "the tragic failure of spirituality... in conflict with its natural conditions" – P. Adams Sitney, Professor of Visual Arts, Princeton University, and author of Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1943-2000