This is a unique archive: no significant Tarkovsky material has ever appeared at auction. Tarkovsky is the great figure of modern Russian film, who created his own surreal universe of film, not only for the Russian tradition, but in the history of world cinematography. He died at the early age of 54, after emigrating from the USSR, the country that nurtured and nourished, but ultimately rejected him. He never returned to his homeland for political and artistic reasons. His films mark a turning-point in the history of film, evoking comparison with Fellini, Kubrick, Bergman, Visconti, Godard and Kurosawa. Ingmar Bergman said of him:
“Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language of film”.
The development of this new language is documented in his extraordinary work Sculpting in Time - published first in German translation as Die Versiegelte Zeit (1986) - widely regarded as the most important Russian theoretical work after Eisenstein’s great studies. Here Tarkovsky writes about art and cinema in general and his own films in particular. The title refers to his own style of film-making, a style characterised by an internal spirituality and intensity combined with a metaphysical outlook, with long takes, an unconventional dramatic structure and a distinctly “authored”, personal use of cinematography. The book, like the movies, contains a great number of poems by his father Arseny, along with his own personal writings on his life and work, lectures and discussions during the making of Andrei Rublyev, in collaboration with a film-history student, Olga Surkova, who later became a professional critic and assisted Tarkovsky in the drafting and the writing of this book. The book contains commentaries on each of his seven major feature films, and on his complex relationship with the Soviet Union. The final chapter, a discussion of his film The Sacrifice, was dictated in the last weeks of his life.
This archive is important in that it contains early drafts of the chapters in both Tarkovsky’s and Surkova’s hands, together with a marked-up typescript of the final version. Thus the development of the book and the genesis and development of Tarkovsky’s ideas can be traced. Also, the various contributions of Tarkovsky and Ms Surkova can be assessed.
Among the more intriguing items in the collection are the printed director’s books for Solaris and other films. These would be printed in very small numbers and almost certainly do not exist elsewhere. They are highly personal documents, revealing the shot-by-shot structure of the movies, involving camera positions and shots. Many of these were changed in the course of shooting, and White and White Day were never filmed exactly in these versions, as they are early versions of Mirror, his most popular work. The scene of walking across the cornfield with Arseny’s poem intoned, is surely one of the most striking and evocative scenes in modern cinema.
Perhaps the most poignant item is the draft letter to President Brezhnev. Tarkovsky had run up against the Soviet authorities and in desperation wrote to the head of state, possibly as a last resort. His lack of success brought about his emigration from Russia and exile in the West:
“...For three and a half years the [my] film has been kept away from the screen... Andrei Rublyev was not and could not have been used for any kind of anti-Soviet propaganda... I do not have any opportunity to exercise my creative ideas. I was told that the issue is closely related to the fate of Andrei Rublyev... And still, if I do not have any work, I cannot make a living, though I have a wife and a child. I do not feel comfortable talking about that, but my situation has been unchanged for so long that I cannot keep silence any longer...”
The albums contain photographs of Tarkovsky from the last, exiled years. These are pictures of the director as we are not used to seeing him: as a father, as a traveller (the Grand Canyon, Stonehenge, Italy) and as an ordinary person surrounded by his friends. It is likely that some of these pictures have been taken by Tarkovsky himself in the same poetic and yet realistic style we see in his films. The negatives are also included. Some of them, it would seem, have never been printed or published. Family albums often reveal a living person in unpretentious surroundings, full of internal monologues. In the last photographs, we see the ailing film director, before his death from lung cancer in Paris aged 54. After his death, he was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1990.
We gratefully acknowledge the kind assistance of Mr Alexander Kargaltsev in the cataloguing of this lot.
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