This creative documentary tells the remarkable story behind the making of Stalker, including the series of conflicts which led to crew members, most notably celebrated director of photography Georgi Rerberg, being left off the credits, leaving careers in tatters. Far from your standard making of doc, Director Igor Mayboroda has woven an engrossing “documentary cinema novel” which not only stands as a tribute to Rerberg’s career but also as a delight for cinephiles interested in how the creative process can flourish even under the most difficult and ultimately devastating of circumstances.
At the Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK this past fall, there was a small programme of challenging Russian documentaries called “Russian Focus: Stories from the Age of the New Soviet.” Most of these pretty much ignored the exigencies of the increasingly popular world of crossplatform, installation and online digital forms of storytelling, and instead offered lush, lingering explorations, in both short- and long-form, of disparate people figuring out what it means to be Russian twenty years after the fall of the USSR. These films were from Russia, of course (Tsirk, Two Highways, Until the Next Resurrection), but also from France (Cinetrain), the UK (How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin, Caught in the Mist), and Germany (Pink Taxi).
The tour-de-force piece of the programme was directed and co-produced by Russian filmmaker Igor Maiboroda and sat in a category of its own, a self-proclaimed “documentary cinema novel.” The 35 mm, 140-minute documentary (there is, according to the director, a six-hour version in the works) tells the remarkable story behind the making of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. It includes the series of conflicts that led to many key members of the crew, most notably celebrated director of photography, Georgy Ivanovich Rerberg, being left off the credits entirely. Maiboroda’s film not only stands as a tribute to Rerberg’s career and his famous family’s legacy, but also as an in-depth post-mortem soap opera, many years on, about the twisted and drama-filled creative process of making the cinematic masterpiece that is Stalker.
Igor Maiboroda was a close friend of Rerberg’s and supported him through hard times. Two weeks before his untimely death in July of 1999, Rerberg had plans to shoot three more films, one of which was to be about his own life. Maiboroda’s tribute is a collection of testimonies from eyewitnesses, none of whom have spoken publicly before about what happened on the Stalker set. In piecing together the structure of this homage, Maiboroda tells us in his narration that he found the structure for his film in philosopher, Alexey Losev’s (18931988) “Aesthetics of Renaissance,” one of Losev’s testimonies of a rich spiritual life that managed to survive the darkest times of Soviet Russia.
There has been much written (and celebrated) about Andrei Tarkovsky: Jean-Paul Sartre, Harvard professor, Robert Bird, Stephanie Sandler (film critic and curator), and James Quandt, are some examples. Evgeny Tsymbal, Tarkovsky’s AD on Stalker tells Maiboroda that the shooting of the film was “a mirror of a hellish trip”. They have all held forth on the genius of Tarkovsky’s singular cinematic vision.
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