Andrei Tarkovsky's Martyrolog on...


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


2 March, Via di Monserrato
        [...] For Hamlet: If it was possible to find a way to express on film the idea of succession and gratitude of the offspring (the four captains) then one could give up the entire thread of Fortinbras. [...]
        King — Erland Josephson, ghost of the father — Max von Sydow.
        The castle's wing is in ruins, each room more devastated than the previous one. And it is in the last one, overgrown with bushes, with no roof, that Hamlet meets the ghost of his father. During the day (although the passage will begin at night, in the darkness) under the glaring light when one can see the tiniest wrinkles on his face. The face from the side, eyes remain invisible. One can very clearly see the cheek and the ear from which pus is oozing out. Immediately after this — a long shot. (The ghost warms himself up by the smoky fire.)

3 March, Friday, Via di Monserrato
        The battle: the first shot from the helicopter. An especially selected and fitting object. It is necessary to invent a completely new not so much a concept but a construction, an idea, creating it according to one's own interpretation. [...]

16 March, Wednesday, Via di Monserrato
        Tell Hamlet in a language that's modern in every respect. Show the essence of the contrast through images, and in the first place of course, through Hamlet's character. Here the dramaturgy is nothing but dialectical, however.
        Yankovsky — Hamlet? This could be quite good. [...]

20 November, Sunday, San Gregorio
        [...] Hamlet.
        They are looking for Ophelia who drowned. They are draining the ponds. People in water, it runs out gradually revealing the bottom of the pond and the crimes of Elsinore. They find Ophelia, her eyes are open.
        A slippery, damp layer at the bottom. Ophelia's dress is white, with lace. Cloth through which all the water in the pond has passed. A fish flutters in the lace mesh — of life!?
        Two fragments; no — three (!):
        1. draining the water,
        2. the drowned woman,
        3. proofs of guilt at the bottom of the pond..
        Yorick's skull is not found by the gravediggers but at the bottom of the pond. Yorick was murdered.
        Must urgently find the translation of Hamlet by Morozov. [...]

22 November, San Gregorio
        [...] 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. [...]


25 September
        [...] Why does Hamlet seek revenge? Revenge is a way of expressing family blood ties, a sacrifice made for those near and dear, a sacred obligation. Hamlet, as we know, avenged to join "the broken link of times," or rather to realise the idea of self-sacrifice. Persistence or obstinacy is frequently apparent in actions which only hurt the person who undertakes them — this is a perverted form of sacrifice. Self-negation, obligation.
        Odd, absurd moments of necessity, of propriety of sacrifice which the materialist Freud would call "masochism." A religious person — "obligation." Dostoievsky called it "desire to suffer." Without a religious system such desire to suffer may turn into psychosis. Ultimately, it is love that hasn't found form. But this is spiritual love, not a Freudian one. Love is always a gift made of oneself to others. And although generosity, readiness to make a sacrifice, carries within itself as it were a negative, ostensibly destructive meaning (naturally, in its vulgar understanding) in relation to the individual who makes the sacrifice of himself, the essence of this act is always love, and therefore a positive, creative, divine act. [...]

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