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Film

Andrei Tarkovsky once named his favourite film directors of all time

@Russellisation

Sitting alongside the likes of Steven Spielberg, Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick as one of the finest filmmakers of all time, the filmography of Andrei Tarkovsky has gone down in cinema history for producing some of the finest movies of all time. Each concerned with the exploration of spiritual and existential themes, using dreamlike, ethereal imagery to meditate on nature, memory and human existence, the likes of 1979s Stalker, 1972s Solaris and 1986s The Sacrifice have each gone down in cinema history.

Over three decades after his passing, the director still has the power to transport viewers, arguing that cinema is the true pinnacle of art, stating: “All art, of course, is intellectual, but for me, all the arts, and cinema even more so, must above all be emotional and act upon the heart.”

Characterised by the recurrence of metaphysical themes and motifs including dreams, memory, childhood and reflections, Tarkovsky spoke of his own brand of cinema that “juxtaposed a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema.”

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Andrei Tarkovsky didn’t reinvent the cinematic language without seeking inspiration from a whole range of contemporary and historic filmmakers, each of which Tarkovsky discusses in a 1983 documentary shot in Italy during the pre-production of his film Nostalghia, named Voyage in Time.

“If you had to talk to today’s and yesterday’s great directors, for what reasons would you thank each of them for what you feel they gave you?” screenwriter Tonino Guerra asks the iconic Russian filmmaker. Mulling over the question, Tarkovsky first signals Robert Bresson, who “has always astonished and attracted me with his ascetics”. Praising the filmmaker of A Gentle Woman and A Man Escaped, Tarkovsky further adds, “It seems to me that he is the only director in the world that has achieved absolute simplicity in cinema. As it was achieved in music by Bach, art by Leonardo. Tolstoy achieved it as a writer”. 

Despite himself creating some of the most subtextually dense films of all time, it seems as though, for the Russian director, it is “simplicity” that he truly adores, also earmarking the work of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini for similar reasons. “I like Fellini for his kindness, for his love of people,” the director states, adding: “for his, let’s say, simplicity and intimate intonation”.

He isn’t the only Italian creative that Tarkovsky loves either, pointing to the films of Michelangelo Antonioni, picking the director because, “There’s practically no action going on in Antonioni films, and this is the meaning of ‘action” in Antonioni films” — or at least in the “Antonioni films that I like the most”.

Remembering the filmmaker Jean Vigo “with tenderness and thankfulness,” the Russian director also praises the “father of modern French cinema,” noting that “nobody has gone farther” than the mind behind Zero de Conduite and L’Atalante.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s five favourite directors:

  • Federico Fellini
  • Jean Vigo
  • Michelangelo Antonioni
  • Robert Bresson
  • Sergei Parajanov

The final name that Tarkovsky points to is his fellow Soviet filmmaker Sergei Parajanov, a creative with an “ability of loving the beauty” as well as a “skill of being completely free inside his own creation”. Gushing over his fellow Russian director, he adds, “artistically, there are few people in the entire world who could replace Parajanov”. 

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