Mayuzumi Tetsuro

Kurosawa: "Tarkovsky Was a Real Poet"

KUROSAWA Akira interviewed by MAYUZUMI Tetsuro, Editor of the Asahi Newspaper. Originally published in The Asahi Shimbun Newspaper on April 15, 1987. Translated from Japanese for by SATO Kimitoshi, Japan. The article appears here for the first time in English.

"I miss him dearly. He died at the age of 54. He died too young...," says Mr. Akira Kurosawa. Soviet film director Andrei Tarkovsky died on the eve of 1986. Kurosawa met Andrei Tarkovsky several times.

"He always looked at me with his adoring bright eyes. I will never forget the look in his amicable eyes. Both of us agreed on many things about life and film. But we are so different in disposition that our outputs are quite opposite in character. He is a poet, I am not."

The Sacrifice is Tarkovsky's "testament," as a film dealing with the desperate situation that the potential of nuclear war drives humanity into. The prospect of humanity in the film is so hopeless that the end credit seems to us the only hope left to human race:

Dedicated to my son — with hope and conviction.

Those who are familiar with Kurosawa's films will recall A Record of a Living Being. It describes how a man who fears the atomic bomb reaches the conclusion that the safest place on earth is Brazil, and he tries to make his entire family emigrate to Brazil. He eventually causes a great tumult, and his family deprives him of his human rights, forcing him into an asylum. A tragic story, indeed.

Says Kurosawa, "I hate to mention my own film, but A Record deals with the same theme that The Sacrifice deals with."

"We talked with each other and agreed that a movie should not attempt to explain anything. Cinema is not a suitable medium for explanation. Those who view it must be left free to sense its content. It should be open to a variety of interpretations. However, Tarkovsky absolutely never explains, he gives no explanation at all. His thoroughness is incredible."

But in The Sacrifice it was somewhat different. Just as Kurosawa lets us know the real issues at the beginning, so Tarkovsky made the main character speak out his opinion in a monologue in which he curses our age, in which civilization has grown increasingly materialistic.

After shooting Ivan's Childhood (1962), Solaris (1972), Mirror (1975), and Nostalghia (1983), "the poet of imagery" uttered finally what he had to say. At the very last moment, one might say.

"His unusual sensitivity is both overwhelming and astounding. It almost reaches a pathological intensity. Probably there is no equal among film directors alive now. For instance we often see water in his films, which is portrayed in a manifold variety of expressiveness. Such is the case in The Sacrifice; one sky-reflecting pool and one without sky reflection. The camera shot the images under strict guidance from the director, whose aim was extraordinarily hard to achieve."

We find the scene where the wind blows at the beginning, and Kurosawa points out how difficult it is to fix the feel of the wind on film.

"You may think it is easy, but in truth it is almost impossible to catch the image and the feel of the scene on film. Japanese directors shoot nature almost absent-mindedly. There is a popular belief that the Japanese are good at filming nature, but it is not true — they are no good at all! Early films by Mikio Naruse are somewhat distinguished in this respect, although he may not have been aware of it... Most Japanese film directors are not sensitive to nature, really, are they?"

I recall the scene of two men and a woman in the bush in Rashomon. The by now legendary image of a dazzling summer sunlight showering from among the trees above, while they are fighting on the ground. When I mentioned the beautiful achievement of his "light gradation," Kurosawa denies it. "That was actually not an unqualified success."

"We failed to succeed in expressing the subtlety of nature, such as the heat inherent in the foliage. We are praised for that scene from quarters from overseas, however..."

(Kurosawa highly values Nikita Mihalkov, his Unfinished Play and From the Life of Obromov.)

And he goes on to say: "Of course the careful treatment of natural phenomena involves certain technical problems. But I think their successful accomplishment is rooted in the view of nature intrinsic to the Russian soul."

"If you see nature with an insightful delicacy, it follows that you treat humanity with the same kind of delicacy. In contrast, Hollywood counterparts are, on the whole, rough and careless."

"Therefore I believe we have to appreciate our sensitivity to nature very dearly."

And his final words:

"I love all of Tarkovsky's films. I love his personality and all his works. Every cut from his films is a marvelous image in itself. But the finished image is nothing more than the imperfect accomplishment of his idea. His ideas are only realized in part. And he had to make do with it."

These words are supported by Kurosawa's own life-long experiences, and we may sense in them the eternal struggle of a Creator in tackling his or her craft. end block

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