Mikhail Romadin

On Film and Painting

The following is an excerpt from Mikhail Romadin, Film and Painting, translated by Maureen Ryley. 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). Mikhail Romadin is a Soviet artist, art director.

Andrei's interest in painting was quite broad but not without limits. It included Russian icons, Guiseppi Arcimboldo, Georges de Latour and even the Surrealists and Saul Steinberg's cartoons. Preference was given to the Classical traditions over Romantic ones. In terms of Contemporary art, he liked those artists who, in their works conduct a sort of dialogue with the old masters: Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Henri Moore, and Ignazio Jocometti.

And still, in spite of the fact that Tarkovsky considered painting with great interest and knew it well, he felt its influences only indirectly. He avoided drawing parallels between art forms and attempted to isolate the language of Film. He didn't believe that this language was somehow secondary to that of either Literature or Painting. He never considered that film-making was a synthesis of various art forms. He intensely disliked the term poetic film which the critics had attached to his early pictures.

It is here that we find the basic difference and juxtaposition between his film aesthetics and those of Pasolini and Fellini. Pasolini raises the language of film to that of literature, writing, with its syntax, semiotics etc. Fellini's method, where each scene is put together in the same way as a painting is on a canvas, was even more unacceptable to Tarkovsky. What will you have, if instead of a figure drawn on a canvas by the artist we see a live actor? This is a surrogate painting, a "live picture."

When, together with the cameraman Yusov, Tarkovsky and I had just begun work on Solaris, we had a chance to see Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. We suddenly wanted to do something completely contradictory to it. After all, each scene in Kubrick's film is an illustration from a science-fiction magazine. That is, that very same graphic art which has been transferred to the screen. And it isn't even good quality graphic art.

It wasn't direct connections between painting and film that Tarkovsky found, but ones that were more remote.

For Solaris he suggested creating an atmosphere which would be similar to that which we see in the works of the early Italian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio. The picture is of the embarkment of Venice, sailboats. There are many people in the foreground. But the most important thing is that all these figures seem to be wrapped up in themselves. They don't look at each other or at the landscape; they in no way interact with their surroundings. A strange, "metaphysical" atmosphere of non-communication is created. In the film, in order to produce the equivalent of this, the device of "being aloof" was used. For example, the scene where the cosmonaut is bidding the Earth farewell. There is a table in the garden at which the cosmonaut (played by Donatas Banionis) is seated. It is raining. It pours over the table, into the cups filled with tea and down the cosmonaut's face. The latter should not react to the rain, but should act as if he was in another dimension altogether, in order to create an atmosphere of irreality. But Banionis involuntarily shuddered in the rain. "The scene is destroyed! What a shame," said Andrei. This is just one small example of the influence of painting on Tarkovsky's film language. The image, born in painting, had to undergo a powerful metamorphosis before it could become a film image. end block

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