Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky 1932 – 86

Tarkovsky was a Russian filmmaker, writer, and film theorist. He is widely considered one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, and one of Russia’s most influential filmmakers.

There’s nothing more earthy, more carnal than the work of this reputed mystical filmmaker — maybe because Russian mysticism is not that of Catholics terrified by nature and body …

In over two and a half decades, Tarkovsky made only seven feature films — a canon half the size of the sparse oeuvre of Robert Bresson, a director with whom the Russian shared many affinities. Both explored themes of spiritual anguish, the search for grace and oblivion, and the conflict between the spiritual and the material, between faith and the barbarity of the world; both made the mystical or ineffable inhere in the materiality of objects, colours, textures.

Champion of the Great Work … another ‘little boy’ …

A seven-year old little boy, who, while a little bit apprehensive at first, runs towards me. I pick him up, resting him on my right side. He is Occidental but with a hint of Oriental in his face.

He informs me that his name is Jason.

‘Something-about-him’ reminds me of those little Oriental boys whom people believe to be a reincarnation of a previous Lama.

Though we have never met before, there is a mature and ‘knowing’ connection between us. He turns out to be Jason of the Golden Hind, and I am informed that he is the ‘Champion of the Great Work’, the alchemical opus.

I then look and see an old Mariner’s chest in pristine condition, with bits of metal and a lamp with a copper base. It is oval, the shape of an egg, or like an acorn in a copper shell.

It is always kept wrapped-up until it is needed.

It is now being fitted onto my new boat, the ‘Golden Hind,’ as it continues on its journey, guided by little Jason!

Courbet’s little studio boy …

Suddenly, the little studio boy, lost in admiration with Courbet’s creation, becomes the focal point for me. Momentarily, the myriad of characters become insignificant. I wonder what his name was? What did he grow up to be? I wish he could turn round and look at me.

I am reminded of the moment when I was looking through the window of the back porch of our Georgian home in Beaumaris. I was three years old. In fact, I also remember that I was, simultaneously, observing myself doing ‘the looking’ – through the window with a vista down to the bottom of the garden. But I was also looking up at the sky.

Today, that little boy is also looking up at a huge canvas of European culture since 1855 … over a century and a half. He is no longer blind to the illusions of adulthood, having witnessed the truth of living in our world. And yet he is still able – in some mysterious way – to hang on to and taste the innocence of childhood.

I had a dream a year or so ago that took me back to that moment when all that existed was the green grass and the blue sky. I am ‘of the earth’ and when I look up into the heavens, it too is ‘of the earth’. Gazing into infinity means looking into the depth of the mystery of the earth, and not some abstract and idealised beyond.

It’s the same as when I look into the eyes of the people I am truly able to make contact … and connect with.

(More musings from the ‘little studio boy’ to follow …)

Meanwhile, I still have the green grass and the blue sky … as Rilke keeps on reminding me …

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that (she) who began it all
can feel you when (she) reaches for you.