Andrei Tarkovsky’s message to young people: ‘Learn to be alone, enjoy solitude’
On April 30th, 1970, Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky scribbled in his diary: “When you are bored, sitting all day long in front of your ink-bottle, aimlessly jotting down the odds and ends that come into your head-you can find that what you have written is enough to drive you mad,” as an excerpt from the 14th-century text, Notes to Relieve Tedium).
One of the greatest talents to have ever graced the cinematic art, Tarkovsky is responsible for multiple masterpieces throughout his career, such as 1966 effort Andrei Rublev, 1972 film Solaris and the brilliant Stalker which was released in 1979. His films have a distinguished air of deeply unsettling melancholia and he still remains one of the most accomplished renderers of the apocalyptic vision.
In Donatella Baglivo’s 1983 documentary, Andrey Tarkovsky: A Poet In The Cinema, he is seen reflecting on the differences between solitude and loneliness. The short video, archived by The Criterion Collection, is especially relevant in a year where we are learning to live on our own due to public health restrictions. Through the long, languid shots of Solaris that deal with this central theme of solitude offer some tragic comfort to the viewers who are stuck inside their homes, trying to make sense of this rapidly changing world we are living in.
Maria Popova provided a full transcript of the brief interaction where Tarkovsky answers the question, “What would you like to tell young people?”.
“I don’t know… I think I’d like to say only that they should learn to be alone and try to spend as much time as possible by themselves,” the director replied. “I think one of the faults of young people today is that they try to come together around events that are noisy, almost aggressive at times. This desire to be together in order to not feel alone is an unfortunate symptom, in my opinion.
“Every person needs to learn from childhood how to spend time with oneself. That doesn’t mean he should be lonely, but that he shouldn’t grow bored with himself because people who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger, from a self-esteem point of view.”