Shavkat Abdusalamov

On Japanese Influences

The following is an excerpt from Shavkat Abdusalamov, Feedback Effects, translated by Sergei Sossinsky. Published in About Andrei Tarkovsky, Memoirs and Biographies, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1990 ISBN 5-01-001973-6 (also available in Russian, see this site's Bibliography section).

One film fan said: "Your Andrei [Rublov] comes from The Seven Samurai." To begin with, he's not mine, and second, all of us come from somewhere. We are most often shown the road to the temple. Otherwise we would not come out of the wilderness. There was also Confusius on Andrei's desk. To say "no" to such a film fan is tantamount to agreeing that we never let fresh air into our flat. In those years we read Basho and Akutagawa. We carried Ueda Akinari in our pocket, watched Mizoguchi in the filmlibrary. Then Andrei got Bresson. Now I think it was the first call of death, don't ask me why.

The Japanese amazed us not by the exotic, but by their very way of thinking. Each personage on the screen is something exceptional. Hence the elevated mood of the scenes. Everything accidental is removed, the most characteristic is led into the limelight. The warrior raises a sword - it is an event - he lowers it, a flash of lightning. It is difficult to imagine a Samurai using his sword in an everyday way, say, for cutting bread. But if Kurosawa as an artist were to show such a thing, Mt. Fuji would erupt. That is, there are incompatible things but if they do occur, the face of the world is transformed. That was what Japanese films were for us.

The mud is Japanese in Tarkovsky's Rublov. But what is it like, Russian Mud? Does it have a specific odor? White cumulous clouds on the horizon, women in babushkas with embroidered linen towels? That's an advertisement! What does it have to do with Russia of Rublov's age? Incidentally, the film is not about that, or rather not only about that. It seems that only recently, almost yesterday, Elem Klimov, his brother Gherman, photographer Nikolai Gnisyuk and I traveled throughout North Russia. I won't describe everything, only the incredible Mud. And then we rejoiced "It's impossible to conquer Russia, it doesn't have the roads!" In that ancient Russia, cows were not set afire. People did not ride into temples on horseback. And not only then. We blew up churches without waiting for an invasion. Peterhof was destroyed by the Nazis, we restored it, not without pride. Yet, we're only debating whether to retore the Church of the Savior in Moscow! Peterhof is a moment of culture. The Church of the Savior was divine. As if God were not at the very root of culture.

Abrupt emotional changes are alien to the oriental world outlook. Its religious-ethical teachings always contain a certain norm of behavior, norm of compassion. Without separating the new from the old, the beautiful from the ugly, they put everything upside-down, confusing in our minds the ordinary ideas of the aesthetic in nature. The dry rustle of reeds proved to be a melody in harmony with the full moon.

Andrei was indeed enriched by the Japanese. Enrichment is not imitation. An artist acquires something in order to broaden his world outlook. He adopts things as if they were the missing part with the help of which he would finally accomplish flight. Daedalus and Icarus, feathers and wax - it's primitive. Thinking did not go any further: it was not artistic thinking. The Japanese taught us a lesson: wings could be made of bamboo. Not probability, but the truth is important. I would be surprised more were I to learn that Andrei was not influenced by the Japanese. It is alien to the nature of an artist to wear blinders-blinkers whatever the color. If an artist is inwardly free, he has a thousand ways of seeing, hearing and feeling the world. end block

back navigation
[ Top ] [ Links ] [ Bibliography ] [ Documentaries ] [ Graphics ] [ Photos ] [ Diaries/Memoirs ] [ Topics ] [ News ] [ Home ]