Friday 20 April 2018 0343am
‘Tarkovsky, the Russian’ 2018
I first heard of Andrei Tarkovsky twelve or thirteen (maybe 18 or 19) years ago. A friend of mine, Daniel – we both like science fiction – had heard of a science fiction movie that wasn’t well-known outside of Russia. He found a copy and we set aside an evening to watch it. It was called, Solaris.
I found it so ponderous that the novelty of watching something that was (apparently) a brilliant, inaccessible, film wore off and I fell asleep.
That’s where my first and only experience of Tarkovsky began and ended. I saw the first twenty-minutes, a couple of minutes in between snoozing, when my snoring work myself up, and the last ten or fifteen-minutes. It was a very boring film. Or so I thought.
Then I came across the list of the 100 Greatest Films Ever and I found Tarkovsky’s name on that list, not for Solaris, but for three other films.
When I embarked on this project I found a collection of Tarkovsky’s films on DVD and bought it. I sat the box in its own special space amongst all my movies and kept ignoring it for the last 295-days. When I say, ‘kept ignoring it’, that’s exactly what I mean. I didn’t forget about it. I knew it was there. I deliberately kept putting it off.
Then came the quandary in which I currently find myself: I need to watch five or six important films every week until the end of June 2018.
I knew Andrei Rublev went for three-hours, give or take. I realised I didn’t have the films of another significant artist onhand. I googled the running times of Gertrud, Ordet, Kes, A Brighter Summer Day, The Mirror, Stalker and Andrei Rublev. With an ever-dimishing period to watch these films I had to make a difficult decision. It’s getting to the point where I’m worried that I’m not going to achieve my goal.
This is where I decided to take Tarkovsky in hand and start a three-hour film at 11pm knowing that it wasn’t going to be a film or a country in which I had any great interest.
And so, I thought, was the beginning of a slow and often torturous journey through what I knew was going to be hard yakka.
Not so! Pleasantly surprised. A film that wasn’t about dictators dictating and armies wiping out other armies. It’s a film about a personal lack of compassion or forgiveness, and holding ourselves to a standard of behaviour to which we believe God holds us. Long? Yes!. Boring? No! Confusing? Yes!
It’s also a film which tells the viewer what real forgiveness looks like, but holds us to the words on a page of a book in which some of us have – and many of us haven’t – placed our faith.