Andrei Tarkovsky's Martyrolog on...

The 1983 American Visit

From the Polish edition of Martyrolog, ed. and trans. by Seweryn Kuśmierczyk. Retranslation by Jan at


28 August, San Gregorio
        Maris Devecchi telephoned yesterday — the American distributor of Nostalghia (an American Italian). He would love to see me come to America where two festivals are planned. The first at Tom Luddy's in Telluride, the second one in New York. And a tour: San Francisco — Los Angeles — Chicago — New York.
        I explained to him my passport problems. He promised to help. I really don't want to deal with all these chores! I feel very tired. But I must go. It will help the distribution of the film in the USA.
        I finished selected works by Gumilov. My God, what a mediocre pretentious individual!
        Franco Terilli telephoned and said he talked to Devecchi today, he also has something to propose. Things are working out so that we can go to USA and meet him at the moment Nostalghia begins its run. But what about the dubbing? Has he dubbed Nostalghia? This must not be done. And yet distributors do not know this. RAI do not care about it and they won't think of it on their own.
        Here, just like in the rest of Italy, is a scorcher oldest people cannot recall. Today a fire broke out in the mountains along the way out of San Gregorio. Somebody's discarded cigarette, probably. It's been like this for several hours. After dark it's a frightening sight. One can hear the roar of the fire. At least there is no wind. This spectacle is unpleasant, inhuman, and immoral.

        The morning of the 28th Kiko saw us to the airport. She bought cosmetics for Lara (35 thousand lira), shampoo and toothpaste (10 thousand).
        At eight thirty we departed for New York. Once there we waited two hours to change planes. In New York we were greeted, after a delay, by some people with ties to M. Devecchi, the distributor of Nostalghia in the US. Then we flew for another four hours or so, first to Los Angeles then to Las Vegas where we were welcomed by Tom Luddy, Krzysztof Zanussi, and Olga Surkova. We went sightseeing in Las Vegas, a city gone mad with tastelessness, full of gambling houses. "World proletariat's dream" — as someone said, looks just like a set built by Aleksandr Ptushko! It's crazy. Weird architectural shapes. Copies of antique statues — for example Marcus Aurelius from Campidoglio, some painted plaster mannequins representing ancient Romans.
        Food in America is atrocious. Extraordinary travels by car with two girls from the festival and a director from the Philippines.
        The Grand Canyon, the desert, national parks and at last the great Monument Valley (Wagner, Hamlet, Styx!). Telluride, where they mine lead, mercury, and gold... The landscape nearby — mountains, flowers, aspens, firs, a bit of Switzerland but on a gigantic scale. The state of Colorado. I have begun the talks with Bill Pence, the festival director. We sent a telegram with our best wishes to Tyapa on the occasion of the new school year. Dvigubsky rang from London, asked to call him back.
        Telluride — one gets the impression it's a set. They do not build houses but set decorations, as in film studios.

3 September
        Larissa had a word with Bill, Stella Pence, and Tom Luddy about our problems. They promised to help us. And regarding the book Sculpting in Time, they'll be happy to find an appropriate publisher. They also promised to help with the screenplays. They said Hamlet ought to be done under Coppola's patronage as he has a great working relationship with Anna-Lena Wibom. The problem with Andryusha, Olga, and Anna Semyonovna can be resolved very quickly — sign an agreement on Hamlet with Coppola and after submitting it to local authorities ask for its confirmation in the USSR. One can also ask Ronald Reagan for support. Even if we have (and we shall have) to ask for political asylum, such decision won't result in any consequences for the family in the USSR as long as Reagan is involved in this. I talked with London. Dvigubsky says everything is going very well, he asked for our earlier arrival in London. I responded that I was busy until mid-September. I asked to convey my visa problems to Tooley.

20 November, Sunday, San Gregorio
        Lara and I came back from London today after the presentation of Godunov. Through all this time I haven't opened my diary, I felt uncomfortable writing in a strange house and I had a sense of how temporary our life in London has been.
        I'll start from the beginning. First we flew to Telluride (USA, Colorado) where we were invited for the festival (they had been inviting us for a long time but Goskino "expressed no interest". The festival director is Bill Pence and his wife Stella helps him. Their main collaborator is Tom Luddy who works for a company owned by Coppola. Telluride is a tiny city situated in the mountains, a bit below the remnants of an old mine. Mountains, snow in the mountains, Canadian firs, aspens, flowers, a creek near a hotel built from wood. [...]

22 November, San Gregorio
        In the past whenever I watched American films set in villages or small provincial towns I was always getting the impression houses and street decorations were badly made. But when I saw those places with my own eyes I concluded it was just the opposite. Entire America is a kind of Disneyland (decorations). Houses are made from slats, planed boards, and plywood. A feeling of the lack of stability and solidity hangs above it all.
        Krzysztof Zanussi, with whom we were travelling, was explaining this by American dynamism, unwillingness to grow into any one place, readiness to run across the country whenever a better job beckons.
        Hamlet — or a portion of it at least — should be filmed in Monument Valley. It's astonishing that in places like this, where one ought to talk to God, Americans make westerns like John Ford used to do. Quakers. A village. Superquakers. Girls in long skirts. Vast spaces, roads on which it's impossible to get run over by a passing car. Emptiness. Tiny towns and a wonderful prairie. Poor Americans — with no soul, no roots, living in a land of spiritual riches, a land they don't know and don't appreciate. New York is terrible.
        We've met with Breynik (Devecchi's son), I gave several interviews. We went to Washington especially to meet Vasya Aksyonov and Slava Rostropovich. Vasya and his wife Maya greeted us at the airport. I was very happy to see them and they invited us to their house. A cosy two-storey home with a furnished American style kitchen which made a big impression on Larissa. Vasya seemed quite no-nonsense and Maya is friendly and hospitable. He writes a lot and lectures at one of the universities. This is how he earns his living. Later we went to Slava Rostropovich who was in Washington. When I phoned him from New York I didn't catch him. But when he found out he phoned back. He is very pleasant. His way of carrying a conversation — exactly like Kola Sidelnikov! Now I understand who our Kola takes after! He expressed heartfelt concern for our problem. He promised his help. He thinks if we ask for the asylum in America, Andryushka and Anna Semyonovna will follow us here very soon. I left a short version of my biography with him. He wants to talk about me. In my opinion he is probably looking for a job for me. I don't quite understand why I would need it now when I'm about to start a film. I get the impression it's to make me look indispensable to America. From my point of view this is slightly inconvenient. Slava gave us more hope.
        At Vasya's we've made our acquaintance with Yuz Aleshkovsky who used to live in their home and write us. A surprisingly bright, nice man. He presented his books to me and to Larissa. As a result of all those meetings and impressions Washington seemed almost like a native city, a bit reminiscent of Leningrad even. Then we returned to New York and subsequently to Italy. [...]

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