CINEMA: Reflecting on the destiny of art and the meaning of existence, Andrey Tarkovsky tells the story of his life and work.
Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: November 11, 2019


«I don’t know a country with as many talented people as Russia. But something is happening that could destroy culture — that is, the physical possibility to work.» This observation, heard in documentary Andrey Tarkovsky. A Cinema Prayer , strikes one as perennially relevant. It could easily apply to Russia’s creative scene under Putin’s regime today, which has recently seen a crackdown on rappers and pop artists viewed by more conservative sectors of society as a corrupting influence on youth. But it came, in fact, from the mouth of Andrey Tarkovsky, as Brezhnev’s succession in 1964 brought Kruschev’s Thaw of relaxed censorship to an end, and hard times back for artists. Widely considered one of Russia’s greatest film directors — in fact, one of the best cinema has ever known — Tarkovsky produced just seven features over a decades-long career, amid relentless pressure from the Soviet authorities to compromise his personal vision. His words pinpoint the paradox (or simply, great tragedy) of a nation that has given rise to geniuses of the calibre of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Ukraine-born Kazimir Malevich, but made them pay for their power, stifling the expression of anyone out of step with state ideology.

Andrey Tarkovsky. A Cinema Prayer was made by Tarkovsky’s son, Andrey A. Tarkovsky. He allows his father to comment on his approach to filmmaking and his conception of the artist entirely in his own words, gathering recordings together with archival footage of him on set, and clips from his masterpieces. As a tribute, it is clearly a very personal labour of love, but that does not prevent it from having wider concerns to convey, in the form of the principles that meant everything to the director and were the key to his imagery of such authenticity.

Andrey Tarkovsky-post1 Andrey Tarkovsky. A Cinema Prayer, a film by Andrei Andreyevich …


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