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1917 (12 replies and 12 comments)

Rstephen11
2 months ago
Rstephen11 2 months ago

Hi, Roger 

First of all congratulations for winning the academy award, I want to let you know that you a huge fan base in India. 

Coming back to the topic, I was rewatching the movie Sacrifice (1987) by Andrei traskovsky, I was stunned because both 1917 and Sacrifice's images are of same look and I can relate both movies because, both of it's central characters are in search for something that they desperately need to find or something that really matters. 

 

 So my question is, is it a deliberate decision to give 1917 a similar look of Sacrifice or it is just a coincidence ?

 

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Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

My word! That is just pure coincidence and I am not so sure Sam will have ever seen 'Sacrifice'. It is also my least favorite Tarkovsky film. What Tarkovsky does exploit in every one of his films is the tension that can be created by holding a shot and that you don't always need to be on a person's face. I think that is why the 'one shot' idea for '1917' works quite well, at least for many people.

Rstephen11
2 months ago

That's absolutely right, I think one shot idea worked really well. 1917 is only movie I remember is played without an interval in my town and I still remember my fellow audience was in great tension throughout the film, especially when the focus was only on the two characters. And they only cheered when the end titles came, seeing the director's, cinematographer's and the music composer's names appeared.

Wouter
2 months ago
Wouter 2 months ago

Yeah it's my least favourite one as well. There is something very cynical about that film which has always left me wondering how he coped with his sickness. I also vaguely remember reading that there was a lot of tension between Tarkosvky and Nykvist on set. It's a shame, because in his book, Sculpting in Time, he seemed so lively and passionate. Near the end of his life, a documentary claimed that in his diary were a lot of accounts of nightmares. It makes me a little sad. 

It's still a good film though. But it's a hard pill to swallow. 

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

I think it depressed him when the house burnt down and he didn't have the shot. So they had to build it again from scratch.

I went to a lecture by Tarkovsky at around the time he shot 'Sacrifice'. He seemed to be analyzing his life, and all of life, as he was giving his lecture.

Rstephen11
2 months ago

In the cinematographer's round table interview by Hollywood reporter, you said Andrei traskovsky is a director(living or late) you would love make a film with. Is there a particular film that you badly wish to work with him ? And is there any memorable moment that you want to share from attending his lecture ?

Wouter
2 months ago
Wouter 2 months ago

Typical Tarkovsky! I can't imagine what it would have been like to hear him in person. I'm a little envious! 
In his book he says he believes that the work of the artist is always a reflection of the artist inner self. If the work is good, to him that means the work is honest. I think he literally uses the word pretentiousness to describe one of the qualities he wanted to avoid.
That's why I wonder what went on inside of him at the time he was writing or making that film. His exterior façade is most likely the archetype of the "hypersensitive intellectual". But we often don't directly show to the outside world what is going on the inside. Tarkovsky had reached a certain intellectual peek of enlightenment -if you could call it that- but there seems to be quite a bit of evidence that makes the case that the man was also troubled by his demons. Of course, none of us are any different, I mean no harm in the statement. But since Offret was his last one, it did make me wonder about "his soul" as he liked to call it. 
Tarvkosky held very high ideals to himself and the people around him. And like it or not, but the truth seems to be that this might have indirectly caused himself as well as quite some others to get sick. 
I've watched a lot of documentaries about him. Probably every one I could find. However, I still entertain the possibility of it being a form of slander, since he was cast out of the USSR. Perhaps some of the docu's aren't all that honest. I'm afraid we'll never truly know. But only one thing really matters: his works were among the most beautiful to ever grace the world and still are to this day. 

Rstephen11
2 months ago

I definitely agree and wished he should have done more films.

David W
1 month ago

I feel very ignorant here! Although I am aware of his films, i have no idea how he was like. I think your description of him just struck a cord in me,its fascinating gaining insight into brilliant minds like his. I guess there is a horrible beauty in the dark side of reality, the quote, "what's bad for your heart is good for your art" comes to mind hearing your description."

Roger Deakins
1 month ago
Roger Deakins 1 month ago

We watched a new Criterion remaster of Klimov's "Come and See' last night. I have seen that film so many times but it always manages to take my breath away. James had not seen the film before and she was also deeply moved by it. For me that film and Tarkovsky's 'Ivan's Childhood' are, besides 'Fires on the Plain', the most essential films about war.

In the lecture I attended, Tarkovsky spent a lot of time, probably hours, talking about religion or, probably more correctly, belief. The lecture was being given in a church so that might have made sense but I think it was far more than that. He was, as you say, full of demons. 'Stalker', 'Mirror' and 'Solaris' were, surely, his way of searching more deeply for some kind of truth. I would have loved to have worked with him but, then again, he was, by all accounts, quite 'difficult'.

dmullenasc
1 month ago

It always fascinates me that the same team that made "Burmese Harp" made "Fires on the Plain" -- the former is very humanistic in a John Ford sort of way, the second very bleak and misanthropic. The horrors of war turns a man into a monk in the first, into a cannibal in the second.

Wouter
1 month ago
Wouter 1 month ago

I find those two films particularly difficult to watch. I have only seen them once. I can't imagine what it must be like to have a childhood like that. Why humanity does these things to itself. It is important to remember, but I'm careful with those type of films because that stuff really affects me too deeply. We don't fully realise how comfortable we really are at this point in time. 

Tarkovsky, as I understand him, was trying to reach for something unreachable through the medium of film. He literally wanted to remove his own interpretation from the work, his own biased self/ego in the service of absolute truth. In some sense, this is literal artistic suicide. He wanted to say something by saying nothing. It's hard to explain, as it's about the paradoxical, mysterious nature of life itself. Absolute truth is something which the human mind is not capable of holding. The mind is tool to look at very small pieces of the universe at a given moment in time. It is not fit to hold the entirety of something all at once. Perhaps we can experience the entirety of something, but we certainly cannot understand it rationally. It would be like using a ruler to measure gravity. It's nonsensical.

The issue is that life is a material experience. And he wanted to create a mystical experience with his films. But I think he overexercised his own sovereignty. It surely is possible to induce transcendental experiences through films, I've experienced such moment myself, but it is never the film itself that creates the experience. It's the synergy between the observer and the film in a very specific point in time that can create this experience. And it is virtually impossible to replicate it consistently. 

As an artist, you can only do your best and know when to stop before it costs you your life. And the rest is out of your hands. "It's in God's hands" as one could say. But Tarkovsky, it seems, always wanted more. But at what point is it enough? He had very specific, almost impossibly scrupulous rules and standards for himself. And ultimately, I believe this is what cost him his life too early. Brilliant as he was, his life might be a cautionary tale of the tragedy of the idealistic artist. 

David W
1 month ago

Surely life isn't a purely "material experience?" I feel that that is a belief. Because what is a "transcendent" experience if not an intangible and immaterial one?

Wouter
1 month ago

It depends on how you define it. In my book, there is no difference between matter and energy. It's the same thing, just different frequency. They are both vibration. A "disturbance" in the "field". It's not really a movement either although you could imagine it like that to wrap your head around it. A vibration is like a chain reaction happening through a field. It's like how electricity "propagates". Electricity doesn't actually "move". It's a chain reaction. Imagine it like a domino effect.  

When I say that life is materialistic, I'm talking about the fact that emotions and thoughts are also energy, but in different forms. Science has already been able to measure these things. But we cannot yet explain them. The only way to explain it would be through the acceptance of the aether model (field theory). But scientists shy away from this in fear of the holy inquisition. Either that or they are infinitely stupid. But I digress (again). The point is that film is only able to capture material things. Things like human beings. But you can put them in a story, give it some meaning and make the human beings laugh, cry and all that good stuff. But you're still essentially, literally, capturing material things. And even the emotions it might trigger among audiences, they are materialistic/physical too. Because emotions and thoughts are very real measurable things! 

All of life is tangible, in theory. Just because something hasn't been discovered yet, doesn't mean it isn't tangible/true.   

Transcendental is Latin: "to go beyond".

In popular understanding it tends to symbolise the expansion of consciousness. Consciousness is also energy, but a different part of the frequency spectrum. It means that your self-identification expands. You no longer only care about yourself.

Transcendent experience is very tangible, let me tell you.

There is a difference between caring for other people because that's what your parents taught you and caring for people because you literally see yourself reflected in them. You experience other people as different expressions of the same thing that you are made of. In practise, this means that you no longer experience life from your point of view alone. You are able to experience it from others as well. 

And this experience is very tangible! 

But Tarkovsky wanted to go beyond everything. Life as it is wasn't enough for him, I think. Some seekers end up chasing their own tail. Actually, at some point every seeker ends up doing this. Until you realise you're going the wrong way. In fact, you're going, while you should actually be still. This is a metaphor. I think Tarkovsky was too consumed by own demons to get out of his own trap in time. 

Tarkovsky hated ideology. But this in itself is an ideological idea. Ironic, isn't it? And he's not the first to fall into his own trap. But to be honest, I still hold the man in high regard. His works, his books... there are things in there of immeasurable value! 

Wouter
1 month ago

To describe it in yet another way, in some sense, Tarkovsky was looking for the face of God himself. The thing, the spark from which vibrations occur. The thing from which the universe was born. As human beings, we are observing the infinitely scattered effects of this initial spark that set everything in motion. The source of the absolute.

But there is a well known quote in the occult circles: "No human being can look upon the face of God and live."

In eastern mysticism this has been recognised, as well as in the Kaballah, even the Sufi's and many other religions and mystical traditions. It is well known among mystics that the human being cannot enter into union with God without leaving the physical body behind. The human being is a container, created to hold a small unit of consciousness (the essence) in order to observe itself. Like watching a movie and forgetting you're sitting in a theater.

Terrence Malick is very familiar with this knowledge. All his movies are about it. 
I would refer to Tarkovsky as well, but in my opinion he didn't fully get it right. And his outlook is very pessimistic. At the end of stalker, the monologue basically indicates that he himself is like the stalker. He tries to to take people to "the zone" where all their desires come true. But whenever they make it there, people are too afraid to go inside. This is like him trying to take people on a spiritual journey towards enlightenment but they are unwilling. And all he does is complain about it. And I totally get it. I run into this feeling almost daily. It saddens me to see people stuck in their own prisons. But it's not my responsibility. Perhaps Tarkovsky took too much of the weight of the world on his shoulders. And made himself accountable for his failure. As an artist you just try your best and the rest is up to the audience. You can't force them into it... that's not how it works.

Which is why I urge you to be careful with his films. Aesthetically, the films are masterpieces and very few works of art come even close to the level of depth and poetry. But if you're looking for spiritual inspiration, you have to be careful because his movies are rather dark. Enjoy them for their beauty but do not attempt to integrate them because it will make you miserable! 

David W
1 month ago

That's a lot to unpack! I'm wary of having this conversation because this isnt exactly a philosophy forum, but if its alright with Roger...

I'm not so sure that emotions and thoughts can be measured, sure, you can scan the brain and see certain areas light up but that is just a neural correlation, not emotions or thoughts. Be careful when defining consciousness! There is a reason that there is the hard problem of consciousness and the mind-body problem. There are many many theories of the origin of it, but there is no conclusion as of yet in neuroscience. It's an assumption to say that the brain generates consciousness. Yes,emotions and thoughts are tangible in the sense that you are aware of and experience them, but to say that they are purely physical is a belief, it's reductionism.

I'm gonna stay away from a discussion about God, in my experience that never ends well! As for the beginning of the universe, who knows! Why are we so sure it even has a beginning? It could be an infinite cycle of big bangs and big crunches,its the mystery that makes everything sacred! Dont come to conclusions and keep asking questions!

Roger Deakins
1 month ago
Roger Deakins 1 month ago

Interesting. I like 'Burmese Harp' but I find it somewhat sentimental. Maybe to be 'sentimental' is also to be 'humanistic'. But I would disagree that 'Fires on the Plain' is totally devoid of humanity.

'Come and See' and 'Ivan's Childhood' are important if for no other reason than that they make us aware just how 'comfortable' our time is. Each film uses archive footage to illustrate that we are watching a fiction, a theatrical representation of a reality far beyond our comprehension. Klimov was a child during the battle for Stalingrad and he said that the things he saw could not be filmed.  I want to watch a film that provokes, informs and moves me emotionally and each of thee films do this, whilst also stretching the creative 'language' of film. Maybe, you could make an argument that there is no place for a film such as 'Fires on the Plain', but if you make a film about a war that was so horrific then it needs to be honest. Knowledge can only make the world a better place no matter how difficult it is to digest.

 

'I understood that this would be a very brutal film and it was unlikely that people would be able to watch it. I told this to my screenplay coauthor, the writer Ales Adamovich. He replied: 'Let them not watch it, then. This is something we must leave after us. As evidence of war, and as a plea for peace.''

Elim Klimov

 

 

 

 

dmullenasc
1 month ago

Don't get me wrong. "Fires on the Plain" is a great film, and certainly has a greater impact than "Burmese Harp". I just find it odd that the two films were made by the same director and screenwriter.

Wouter
1 month ago
Wouter 1 month ago

I agree. Don't get me wrong. I am glad I saw the films! Those films made me realise the reality of the situation. You can't even begin to compare it to Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List. Although the subject matter is the same, the sheer emotional IMPACT of Come and See is miles and miles ahead. Even the sheer title sends shivers through my spine. But I have to respect my limits. I'm a sensitive person, my threshold is very low. The feeling of this film would stick with me for days. It would make me question my very existence. And I already do that on a daily basis! Best not to pile the wood too high on the fire. 😉

Roger Deakins
1 month ago
Roger Deakins 1 month ago

Yes, images from both films have been etched in my brain since I first saw them! Perhaps it is a mistake to dwell on them so much!

Canuck
1 month ago
Canuck 1 month ago

"Private Ryan" is far more graphic than "Come and See." Klimov brilliantly made you believe you witnessed a brutal event without showing the details. The villagers were herded into the farmhouse to be burned but you never saw any of them on fire. And how about the village girl dragged away by the Nazis? You're sick to the stomach knowing what they were going to do with her. Again, the gang rape is never shown. Instead, she is seen stumbling out of the mist with bloodied legs.

And how about "Army of Shadows?" What I found fascinating about it was that the "good guys" were never shown doing anything heroic, like plotting to kill top Nazis or blowing up buildings. The resistance fighters were just trying to survive the day.

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