Precariously teetering between Lumière observation and Méliès parlor trick, Snow experiment and Cassavetes portrait, ANDREI TARKOVSKY (1932–86) imperceptibly whispered, then violently screamed, that humanity’s very existence hung in the balance, and art alone could save it. Entire film reels swallowed burning houses and the secret insanity of burning men, desires so deeply buried they don’t exist, remapped space-time in a genre not so much science-fiction as its opposite, mysteries and failures of the soul in conversation with decaying Soviet obligation, identity and infrastructure plundered with equal abandon. Tarkovsky’s characters, obsessed with impossible stakes, willingly submit themselves to grand formal constructions, still leaving enough room for the meanderings of dreamscape agency.
Ingmar Bergman famously called him the greatest director, the one who “invented a new language, true to the nature of film.” Tarkovsky operated musically; the echoes of physical reality performed, distilled, arranged. Watching, you simultaneously have the privileged vantage of an honored guest and the guilt of intrusion, all in service of a few frames of genuine magic that might yet save the world: the Andrei Rublev (1966) bell sequence, The Room in Stalker (1979), the candle in Nostalghia (1983), the burning house in The Sacrifice (1986). And all of The Mirror (1975).
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).