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Eye Exhibition: Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) is a towering figure in world cinema history, a director who worked within the Soviet system and yet turned out films that were mystical, mysterious and lyrical. Eye is celebrating his career this autumn with an exhibition which will highlight aspects of the Russian's life and career that have never been properly explored before.

Putting together the exhibition has been a labour of love for Jaap Guldemond, Director of Exhibitions/Chief Curator at Eye. For him, Tarkovsky is the perfect example of an auteur who exists in the field between cinema and visual art.

"Tarkovsky is one of the few figures who really tries to use the rules of cinema in his own way. For me, a lot of filmmakers use standard ways of making a film. Tarkovsky is the opposite. He really tries to use the means of making a film, the editing, the sound, the way he moves the camera according to his own rules," Guldemond says of the director of such classics as Stalker and Solaris.

For years, Guldemond searched long and hard for the director's heirs. There were several descendants and colleagues of Tarkovsky still alive, among them an ex­-wife, a sister and two sons. In the end, he discovered the person he was looking for, Andrey Tarkovsky Jr.

Based in Florence, Italy, where his father had come late in his life to work on his film Nostalgia, Tarkovsky Jr is a documentary maker himself and the ‘gatekeeper' of the Andrei Tarkovsky archive. He is fiercely protective of his father's legacy. It took Guldemond several years to track him down and win his confidence. However, with the son supporting the exhibition, the Eye curator has been able to access some extraordinary artefacts, among them Tarkovsky's letters, scripts, his most intimate "scribbles" and drawings, and his collection of Polaroid photos. These aren't just casual snaps. They are lyrical, haunting images which you can tell, the moment you see them, couldn't have been taken by anybody else other than the Russian master.

Tarkovsy Jr lives in his father's old apartment in Florence. Guldemond has visited him there. "It's quite nice because when you step inside, it's like you are (back) in Russia. Everything is Russian. The furniture is Russian. There are Russian icons on the wall. There are presents from Sergei Parajanov," he says of the flat which itself is like a mini museum.

In the 30 or so years since Tarkovsky died, he has been the subject of many retrospectives but never before has an exhibition as extensive as the one at Eye been mounted. This will be the first time that the early drafts of the scripts for Stalker and Andrei Rublev have been seen in public.

Visitors will also be able to see letters from the Soviet authorities to the director in which they make it very clear they are not pleased with the work he has been doing.

For Guldemond, the genius of Tarkovsky lay in his ability to create "poetic associations" between images. The Russian wasn't much interested in narrative. His films were about feelings, not stories. "It's all about the meaning of life and the absence in our culture of room for a spiritual existence," stresses the Chief Curator. The exhibition will seek to recapture the spiritual force of his best work. Guldemond has put up screens with very precisely selected fragments from Tarkovsky masterworks which will give viewers the feeling that they are walking through "the landscape" of his films.

Alongside Tarkovsky's own work, which will be shown in restored versions, the film programme also includes movies from many directors inspired by Tarkovsky - or who inspired him. They include everything from Andrei Zvyagintsev's The Return to Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari, from Lars Von Trier's Melancholia to Luis Bunuel's Nazarin. The work of Tarkovsky's father, the brilliant poet Arseny Tarkovsky, is likewise acknowledged.

Eye has already been receiving inquiries from other museums about being able to host the exhibition once its run in Amsterdam is over. This is one Eye show which looks bound to travel.
Geoffrey Macnab

 

The exhibition will run from 14 September - 6 December in Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.

For more information: www.eyefilm.nl/en/exhibition/andrei-tarkovsky

SEE NL Magazine #36 September 2019 / Locarno - Venice - Toronto - Netherlands Film Festival Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

 

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