I should thank my dear friend Puneet for introducing me to this book and this man. Today I’m going to discuss with you a brilliant book by a legendary cinema hero, Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky.
Now to those who don’t know about him, Tarkovsky is a cinema giant. It would be an understatement to say that he was just a director. I would say in fact he was one of the greatest visual storyteller we have ever seen. Film director Ingmar Bergman said of Tarkovsky :
“Tarkovsky for me is the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream”
Now most people know of him as a filmmaker, writer, film editor, film theorist, theatre and opera director. But today I’m going to introduce him as a visionary and a photographer. All through his career, he shot polaroid images, sometimes to make notes and other times to stop time and reflect upon it.
This extract from the introduction explains it all.
“At my wedding in Moscow in 1977, Tarkovsky had a Polaroid camera in his hand and he moved about happily with this instrument which he discovered only recently. He and Michelangelo Antonioni were my witnesses at the wedding, and as the custom then, it fell to them to choose the music for the band to play when the time came to sign the marriage certificate. The chose The Blue Danube.
Antonioni, too, made great use of a Polaroid at the time, and I remember that during a reconnaissance in Uzbekistan for a film that in the end we never made, he wanted to give three elderly Muslims a photograph he had taken of them. The eldest, after casting a brief glance at the image, gave it back to him, saying: ‘Why stop time?’ We were left gaping in wonder, speechless at this extraordinary refusal.
Tarkovsky often reflected on the way that time flies and this is precisely what he wanted: to stop it, even with these quick Polaroid shots.”
– Tonino Guerra
The book here, is small, I would say of the size of a notebook. Its intimate and soft but not light. It makes its presence felt, like the light inside a room, shining, with and without weight at the same time. Printed by Thames & Hudson, its 133 pages of thick matt paper divided in sections such as Introduction by the title “A Fond Remembrance”, Russia, Italy and then an essay about Tarkovsky. The images usually are printed only on one side of the book with the other page empty or with notes by the director himself. Its softbound and wonderfully printed.
The first thing which you notice is the intimacy of the book. Its not really meant for an exhibition or even for outsiders to view. Its a personal journal with emotive notes, hopes, dreams and stories of a man’s past and present. His photographs seem to be snapshots of longing love and pain mixed with elation of discovery.
Deep colors mixed with casual poetic nature of Tarkovsky make this book. Its not just photographs, its a portrait of his heart, a short film of what his mind holds. The pictures are simple enough yet abstract enough to let you explore a world within them.
Its a beautiful book to own, its personality so strong that you can’t deny the brilliance and the simplicity of it. A definite great addition to anyone’s library.