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Andrei Tarkovsky on Art, Life, Writing, Cinema, and More


Happy birthday, Andrei Tarkovsky! Here are some quotes from the filmmaker:


“Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”


“The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as an example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.”


“An artist never works under ideal conditions. If they existed, his work wouldn’t exist, for the artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Some sort of pressure must exist. The artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”


“[W]riting which links images through the linear rigid logical development of plot […] usually involves arbitrarily forcing them into sequence in obedience to some abstract notion of order. And even when this is not so, even when the plot is governed by the characters, one finds that the links which hold it together rest on a facile interpretation of life’s complexities.”


“An artist needs knowledge and the power of observation only so that he can tell from what he is abstaining, and to be sure that his abstention will not appear artificial or false.”


“It is obvious that art cannot teach anyone anything, since in four thousand years humanity has learnt nothing at all.”


“My function is to make whoever sees my films aware of his need to love and to give his love, and aware the beauty is summoning him.”


“A book read by a thousand different people is a thousand different books.”


“What is art?…Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other. A confession. An unconscious act that nonetheless reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.”


“Clearly the hardest thing for the working artist is to create his own conception and follow it, unafraid of the strictures it imposes, however rigid these may be [….] I see it as the clearest evidence of genius when an artist follows his conception, his idea, his principle, so unswervingly that he has this truth of his constantly in his control, never letting go of it even for the sake of his own enjoyment of his work.”


“One doesn’t need a lot to be able to live. The great thing is to be free in your work. Of course it’s important to print or exhibit, but if that’s not possible you are still left with the most important thing of all—being able to work without asking anybody’s permission.”


“If a writer, despite his natural gifts, gives up writing because no one will publish him, then he is no writer. The artist is distinguished by his urge to create, which by very definition is a concomitant of talent.”


“Poetry is an awareness of the world, a particular way of relating to reality.”


“There are people who want to know about everything in the minutest detail, like accountants or lawyers. But show a toe sticking out of a hole in a sock to a poet and it is enough to produce an image of the whole world in him.”


“The director’s task is to recreate life, its movement, its contradictions, its dynamic and conflicts. It is his duty to reveal every iota of the truth he has seen, even if not everyone finds that truth acceptable. Of course an artist can lose his way, but even his mistakes are interesting provided they are sincere. For they represent the reality of his inner life, of the peregrinations and struggle into which the external world has thrown him.”


“Never try to convey your idea to the audience—it is a thankless and senseless task. Show them life and they’ll find within themselves the means to assess and appreciate it.”


“My objective is to create my own world, and these images which we create mean nothing more than the images which they are.”


“Relating a person to the whole world: that is the meaning of cinema.”


“Above all, I feel that the sounds of this world are so beautiful in themselves that if only we could listen to them properly, cinema would have no need for music at all.”


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