Andrei Tarkovsky: A Sci-fi Legend

 Andrei Tarkovsky: A Sci-fi Legend
01 November 2023

Censorship, exile and greatness; the life of Andrei Tarkovsky, (1932-1986), is one of a reluctant Soviet defector and artistic pioneer. Widely acknowledged as one of greatest directors of all time, Tarkovsky started his career at the State Institute of Cinematography and has shaped the development of cinema in his introduction of the ‘Romantic Sublime’ and the ‘Slow Cinema’ Romanticist aesthetic throughout both Russia and the West. 

The postwar period in which the director emerged was one of total societal, cultural and political upheaval as existing cultural and societal expectations experienced a fundamental shift surrounding concepts such as feminism, masculinity and disability as a consequence of war. 

Encapsulating an era of Post-War cultural and subsequent cinematic revolution, the director benefited from policies of progressive de-Stalinization throughout the ‘Khrushchev Thaw’ with access to cinematic movements led by a new generation of experimental artists and movements, such as the French New Wave. The greatest influence upon Tarkovsky and his works can be found in Italian Neorealism, otherwise known as the Golden Age of Italian cinema, which explored the effects of Post-War and post-fascist reality upon the Italian psyche, engaging with concepts such as injustice, cruelty and depression. 

The breadth is his influence across concepts of genre and aesthetic is incredible and whilst I highly recommend a variety of his works, such as Ivan’s Childhood, (1962), Andrei Rublev, (1966), and Mirror, (1975), in this article, I’m going to focus upon his contributions to the genre of Soviet Sci-fi . 

Solaris, (1972).

Soviet Sci-Fi, and Sci-Fi in general for that matter, is a criminally underrated genre, whose contribution to modern pop-culture and social evolution is often overlooked. Inspired by the Stanislaw Lem novel, ‘Solaris’ is a psychological drama that follows a psychologist and his descent into madness as he investigates a distant ocean planet, where inexplicable hallucinations have caused a crew to go insane. Awarded the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, the film engages with concepts commonly associated with Tarkovsky’s work such as religion, consciousness and human connection. 

Stalker, (1979).

Such concepts are further explored in ‘Stalker’, the director’s final film produced in the Soviet Union, awarded the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. A Sci-Fi classic based upon Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s ‘Roadside Picnic’, the film represents an introspective exploration of the human mind and soul as three men attempt to navigate ‘The Zone’ in search of purpose and wealth. The film and its surroundings the clearest example of Tarkovsky’s aesthetic: stark, brutal and pure.

Darcie Peters is a student currently at Liden and Denz. 

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