Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky: Artistic Statement
Beginning with the first preparations for this documentary, I knew that I would approach filming and editing with heightened awareness and caution. I attempted to resist simply assembling the common ingredients typical of the genre, instead aiming to absorb the cinematic principles that Andrei Tarkovsky had mapped out in Sculpting in Time. Of course, because Tarkovsky seldom ventured into non-fiction, and since I grew up in a drastically different environment as compared to his (1990s Los Angeles as opposed to Soviet Russia), I understood that I would only be able to follow his tenets loosely...
Before shooting began, I sought to understand the underpinnings of Tarkovsky's theoretical pillars. Once the project started to materialize, I persistently focused on certain precepts that he adhered to, namely: 1.) that editing should not make a movie, but rather should connect sequences already instilled with their own 'time pressures' 2.) that viewers should not be spoon-fed with narrative or symbolic meaning, but should experience cinema viscerally, as one listens to music, and 3.) that film possesses its own, unique means of expression derived from the seventh art's singular capacity to crystallize time.
Although these teachings are ideals, and can thus provide only a trajectory for the director rather than a precise formula, such concepts guided me at every step in the production of this documentary. As I shot, for example, I would seek to capture the unique flow of time within my subject, instead of simply recording something for its representational significance alone. In this regard, luckily, I was assisted by each of my fifteen interviewees, all of whom spoke of Tarkovsky with unfeigned depth, sincerity, and emotion. Consequently, there are no talking heads in this movie, and meaning may just as often be found in between words as through them.
The principles described above have also become the instruments with which I attempt to address the central concern of this work: investigating Tarkovsky's proposition — that death doesn't exist — through an exploration of his own posthumous presence. Again, it must be underscored that any findings that I would make in this regard could not be conceptually expressed, but would rather have to be distilled cinematically.
Once I had finished gathering testimonies, I was exceptionally fortunate that one of the interviewees, Michal Leszczylowski, co-editor of The Sacrifice, offered to supervise my work at the editing table. There, he taught me to listen to the inner dynamics of footage and to allow the material to assemble itself.
In summary, I hope that the philosophical convictions that I have absorbed while working on this film have enabled me to create a breathing artistic entity that will spur interest in Tarkovsky not by presenting an assembly of ideas — as many documentaries do — but rather by respecting the very principles that the maestro had perfected. This is, I believe, the best way to remember and honor Andrei Tarkovsky in observance of the twentieth anniversary of his death.