Review: Sculpting Time: Andrei Tarkovsky Retrospective – Part 1 @ Chapter

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Sculpting Time: Andrei Tarkovsky Retrospective Part 1 – Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev and Solaris
Chapter Arts Centre

Chapter have given us a rare gift. The cinematic work of Andrei Tarkovsky is an exceptional array of artistic creations. Never has a filmmaker led the cinematography into the heights of such mastery, along with a creative process that makes for fascinating experiences.

Watch the new trailer highlighting his work to take in just what I mean:

Each film is its own stellar offering. His first three films are below, the other four shall follow in a second round-up review:

Ivan’s Childhood, 93mins, 12A

Tarkovsky’s first feature, this impressionistic film, is an evocative and tense depiction of a quiet and balanced part of Russia’s battle against the Nazis. Nikolay Burlyaev is our strong and authoritative Ivan, keeping several more experienced army personnel on their feet. There are many exquisite moments of Ivan’s reminiscing. For example, drinking from a bucket with his mother, them both peering down a well. Also, an apple kart overflowing during its journey, as horses on a beach come to chomp on the fallen fruit. The scene in the Forrest (with what appears to be birch tress) is also remarkable in its composition, as the camera lowers into a ridge lingering over the two figures, embraced with a kiss.

It’s perhaps his most accessible film and it’s a sign of great things to come.

4 stars

Andrei Rublev, 174mins 15

A demanding endeavour in anyone’s eyes, this quasi-historical epic details the life of a great iconic painter. We never see Andrei actually paint, but the journey through medieval Russia is clearly the influence for a more recent black and white Russian film: Hard To Be A God. It’s a hard sell, even with some super camera journeys and effects. The opening of the film sees a brave inventor use a quaint hot air balloon to fly upwards, as the camera swells with glee with him. The ending, the only moments entirely in colour, pulls focus onto the minute details of Rublev’s real icons as an Orthodox choir adds mood. It’s a revolution to see colour after three hours of monochrome, but the film shows its age in its use of colour thanks to this restoration, bringing out perhaps too much detail.

Hard work, but impressive all the same.

4 stars

Solaris, 166mins, 12A

In this surprising plunge into Science Fiction, Tarkovsky tackles huge themes and creates a film at which to marvel. Based on Stanisław Lem’s novel, Donatas Banionis is Doctor Kris Kelvin, sent to a space station to investigate strange goings-on. Whilst there, a representation of his dead wife, Khari (Natalya Bondarchuk) appears, thanks to the nearby bizarre space sea, creating weird psychological malfunctions in any one who dares to be near it.

Khari’s sense of knowing she is a replicant of the real person raises many existential questions for an audience. The atmosphere as well is unbridled: the use of Bach’s organ music, Eduard Artemev’s electronic soundscapes and the unrelating pang of uneasiness that permeates the essence of the film. It’s easy to see the huge influence the film has had on Lars Von Trier, the Dead Space video games and even a remake of the film was made in 2005 with George Clooney.

A dark, moody double character study with a striking execution.

5 stars

I thrill to think what the other four films shall bring.

Truly masterful cinema.

Chapter Arts Centre continues Sculpting Time: Andrei Tarkovsky Retrospective this August with screenings of Mirror, Stalker, Nostalgia and The Sacrifice.

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