Andrei Tarkovsky is considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, known for his distinct visual style and philosophical themes. Here are seven of his most acclaimed films, listed in chronological order:
Ivan’s Childhood (1962): “Ivan’s Childhood” is the debut film of Andrei Tarkovsky, released in 1962. The film tells the story of a young orphan boy, Ivan, who serves as a spy for the Soviet Army during World War II. Despite his youth, Ivan is determined to avenge his family’s death at the hands of the Nazis and wants to help his country win the war. Along the way, Ivan befriends a sympathetic officer who helps him navigate the dangers of war and confront his traumatic past.
The film is notable for its lyrical cinematography, dreamlike imagery, and poetic storytelling, which became hallmarks of Tarkovsky’s later work. “Ivan’s Childhood” won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, establishing Tarkovsky as a major new voice in world cinema. The film’s themes of loss, memory, and the human cost of war would remain central to Tarkovsky’s later films, cementing his legacy as one of the most visionary and influential filmmakers of the 20th century.
Andrei Rublev (1966): “Andrei Rublev” is a biographical epic film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and released in 1966. The film portrays the life of the famous Russian painter and iconographer Andrei Rublev, who lived during the tumultuous period of 15th-century Russia.
The film is divided into eight loosely connected episodes, each depicting a key moment in Rublev’s life and career and exploring the time’s broader historical and cultural context. Throughout the film, Tarkovsky explores themes of artistic creation, spiritual faith, and the relationship between the individual and society.
“Andrei Rublev” is renowned for its stunning visuals, complex characters, and intricate narrative structure. The film was controversial upon its initial release due to its frank depiction of violence and its portrayal of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, it has since been recognized as a world cinema masterpiece and is widely regarded as one of the greatest historical epics ever made.
Solaris (1972): “Solaris” is a science fiction film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and released in 1972. The film is based on a novel of the same name by Polish author Stanisław Lem and tells the story of a psychologist, Kris Kelvin, who is sent to a space station orbiting a mysterious planet called Solaris to investigate strange occurrences.
Upon arrival, Kelvin discovers that the station’s crew members have been experiencing hallucinations and visions, seemingly brought on by the planet itself. As Kelvin begins to explore the mysteries of Solaris, he also confronts his inner demons and past traumas.
The film is known for its meditative pace, philosophical themes, and stunning visuals. Tarkovsky explores complex ideas about memory, identity, and the nature of consciousness and raises questions about the limits of human understanding and the relationship between humanity and the universe. “Solaris” is considered one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. It has significantly influenced the genre, inspiring other filmmakers such as Steven Soderbergh to create their story adaptations.
Mirror (1975): “Mirror” is a highly personal and autobiographical film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and released in 1975. The film blends various elements of Tarkovsky’s life, including memories of his childhood, his relationship with his parents, and his experiences as a filmmaker.
The film is structured as a series of nonlinear, dreamlike sequences that jump back and forth in time, blurring the boundaries between memory, reality, and imagination. Through these sequences, Tarkovsky explores complex themes such as the nature of time, the role of art in shaping our understanding of the world, and the interplay between personal and political history.
“Mirror” is known for its striking imagery, poetic narration, and innovative use of sound and music. The film represents a deeply personal and introspective chapter in Tarkovsky’s career and has been praised as one of his most powerful and evocative works.
Stalker (1979): “Stalker” is a science fiction film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and released in 1979. The film is based on the novel “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and tells the story of a “stalker,” a guide who leads people through a mysterious and dangerous area known as the “Zone.”
The Zone is a forbidden place created by extraterrestrial visitation and contains a room that is said to grant the deepest desires of those who enter it. The stalker leads a writer and a scientist into the Zone, and the three men embark on a perilous journey that tests their beliefs, fears, and desires.
The film is known for its slow pace, atmospheric visuals, and philosophical themes. Tarkovsky explores the nature of human desire, belief power, and language and communication limitations. “Stalker” has been praised for its thought-provoking storytelling, intricate world-building, and haunting imagery, and it is considered one of Tarkovsky’s greatest works.
Nostalghia (1983): “Nostalghia” is a 1983 Italian film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. The film tells the story of a Russian writer named Andrei Gorchakov who travels to Italy to research the life of an 18th-century Russian composer but finds himself overwhelmed by feelings of nostalgia and homesickness.
Throughout the film, Gorchakov becomes increasingly isolated and disconnected from his surroundings as he reflects on his memories and struggles to find meaning in his life. The film explores themes of alienation, spirituality, and the human condition.
“Nostalghia” is known for its beautiful cinematography, long takes, and philosophical themes. It was Tarkovsky’s first film made outside of the Soviet Union and is considered one of his most personal works. The film received critical acclaim and won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 1983.
The Sacrifice (1986): “The Sacrifice” is a 1986 Swedish film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. It tells the story of Alexander, a retired actor who lives with his family on a remote island in Sweden. On the day of his birthday, Alexander hears news of an impending nuclear war and makes a desperate plea to God, offering to sacrifice everything he loves in exchange for the end of the world’s destruction.
The film explores themes of spirituality, sacrifice, and the human condition. It is known for its stunning cinematography, long takes, and use of symbolism and allegory. Tarkovsky considered “The Sacrifice” his most important and personal film, as it was made when he was grappling with his own mortality after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“The Sacrifice” received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986. It is considered one of Tarkovsky’s most profound and thought-provoking works.