Andrei Tarkovsky, considered by many to be one of the most important film directors in the history of cinema, was born on April 4, 1932 in a small village in the Soviet Union. His father was the poet Arseny Tarkovsky. After finishing high school, Andrei attended the most prestigious film school in Russia, the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). Over the next three decades, he would defy the suffocating pressure of the Soviet film industry to develop a unique cinematic language through seven feature films. His first, Ivan's Childhood (1962), won the prestigious Golden Lion award at the 1962 Venice Film Festival. The epic and meditative Andrei Rublev (1966) — a portrait of the medieval Russian icon painter — established Tarkovsky as a master of his medium, winning the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes in 1969, and gaining notoriety over the years as one of the greatest films ever made. Tarkovsky continued to work in Russia throughout the 1970's, completing Solaris (1972), The Mirror (1975), and Stalker (1979) despite ruthless Soviet censorship, which deemed his films too ideologically dangerous because of their free-thinking approach to the mysteries of human existence.
Eventually, however, the constraints imposed on the director by Soviet bureaucracy proved too difficult to surmount, prompting Tarkovsky to defect to the West where, during the last years of his life, he filmed Nostalghia (1983) and The Sacrifice (1986). Tarkovsky died of cancer at age 54 in December 1986, and is buried at the Sainte-Geneviéve-des-Bois Cemetery near Paris, France. Known for his poetic long takes and personal approach to the flow of time on screen, Tarkovsky made a profound impact on many who are interested in the nature of cinema. For instance, renowned Swedish director Ingmar Bergman said of Tarkovsky's contribution, "Tarkovsky is for me 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."