04/06/2022, 09.49
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Andrej Tarkovskij's Russia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The 90th anniversary of the director-prophet's birth. In the Soviet era he boldly testified to his insights on God through the language of art. His films reflect reasons that led to Putin's invasion of Ukraine. In the film "Stalker" he prophesied Chernobyl.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - In a Russia devastated by its war against Ukraine and the entire Western world, a sad anniversary forces us to reflect on the darkest and most contradictory aspects of the soul of the country at the center of tensions: the 90th anniversary of the birth of director-prophet Andrej Tarkovskij, who died in 1986 at the age of 54. In the only seven films he directed, he was able to illustrate many unresolved mysteries of the history and spirituality of this great people.

Even the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev) sent a message on the occasion of the events in memory of the director. He recalled that his creative path was not at all easy: "Life under the atheist regime imposed many limitations on freedom of expression, yet even in such difficulties Tarkovsky found the opportunity to witness with courage his insights about God in the language of art, speaking of the great Christian ideals and sharing the feeling of being continuously included in the design of divine Providence. Kirill refers primarily to Tarkovsky's famous 1966 film "Andrei Rublev," which reconstructed the life of the great 15th-century iconographer, re-proposing in the midst of the Soviet era the historical foundations of the Russian Orthodox faith.

The film shows the image of the suffering Christ who makes his Way of the Cross in the snow, crossing the Russian land and accompanied by the faces of the Russian people, which Rublev was able to insert even in the austere icons of Byzantine style. Last Sunday, preaching to the soldiers in the grandiose Cathedral of the Resurrection, the Patriarch insisted on the "great suffering" of the Russian people, "which no other European people has had to experience as much as we have", also to justify the drama of the "defensive" war.

Tarkovsky certainly did not want to support Soviet totalitarianism, which indeed prevented him from working and forced him into exile, which he experienced in several countries including Italy, where he made another of his masterpieces: the film "Nostalgia". In it he touches on another particularly sensitive theme with respect to recent events, since it was precisely the nostalgia for lost greatness that was one of the reasons for the aggression against Ukraine. In the film the director starts from autobiographical sensations, as in other films of his (above all "Lo Specchio" of 1974), to narrate the contradiction between the beauty of Renaissance Italy, where the artist in exile lives, and the yearning to return to his origins.

In the most mystical of Tarkovsky's films, "Stalker", reality is deformed by natural and supernatural factors: in a "Zone" devastated by previous wartime events, normal natural laws are subverted for unknown causes. Inside there is a room in which even the soldiers who guard it do not dare to venture, where it seems that the "most intimate and secret desires" can come true. Two emblematic figures, the "Writer" and the "Professor" enter it, overcoming all the pitfalls, guided by the "Stalker", the illegal guide of the territory. One of the travelers would like to destroy the Zone with a nuclear weapon, but in the end he gives up, and in the end the only outcome is the pilgrims' rediscovery of themselves.

As the critic Andrej Plakhov observes on "Kommersant", "all Tarkovsky's cinema continuously oscillates between "russicity" and "universality", between the sense of the past and the vision of the future. In "Stalker" he prophesied in some way the tragedy of Černobyl that is renewed today, between the catastrophe of the explosion and the destructive wars; in "Sacrifice", shot in Stockholm, the dramatic death of the protagonist takes place in the place where the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, a political messenger of peace, was later assassinated".

The memory of the great Russian director cannot alone stop the wars and tragedies of Russia and its destructive instincts, but it reminds everyone that there is a more intimate "Zone" in the souls of peoples, where the way to reconciliation between them can be sought.

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