Andrei Tarkovsky interviewed by Maurizio Porro (1983)

Cannes: Tarkovsky

The following is a transcript of an interview with Andrei Tarkovsky, conducted by Maurizio Porro at Cannes, 1983. Reference: Corriere della Sera, May 16, 1983. The interview was translated from Italian into English exclusively for by David Stringari of Fairfield, Connecticut, U.S.A.

The fifty year old Andrei Tarkovsky, subtle poet and decorated cinematic artist (five films—five masterpieces—in twenty years) is here at the Cannes Film Festival because tomorrow he will be holding high the Italian flag with Nostalghia, the film that he wrote with Tonino Guerra and filmed in Rome with RAI and Gaumont. He is here with a serious film and thus he discusses about serious things.

PORRO: Nostalgia for what, Mr. Tarkovsky?

TARKOVSKY: Our "nostalghia" is not your "nostalgia." It is not an individual emotion but something much more complex and profound that Russians experience when they are abroad. It is a disease, an illness, that drains away the strength of the soul, the capacity to work, the pleasure of living. I analyze this nostalghia confronting it with a concrete story, that of a Soviet intellectual who comes to Italy.

Afflicted with this nostalghia, how did you find working with us?

Extremely well, because cinema, in any case, is a big family everywhere. I made the film without the use of a translator, making myself understood with broken phrases. Film uses a universal language, it helps us to understand each other, to explain ourselves. However, I do find that in Italy there is far too much discussion and arguing over the financial aspects of this type of work, of filmmaking, which instead are not considered to be so essential by we in Russia.

Looking at the Russian protagonist, one is tempted to view it as being an autobiographical film.

It is, but only from the artistic point of view. In fact, in this sense, I have never made a film that has mirrored my moods with such violence, that has liberated my interior world so profoundly, as this one. I myself, when I saw the completed film, was stunned in the face of this expressive force. I felt almost ill: the same thing that one experiences when looking at oneself in the mirror, or when one has the impression of even having gone beyond one's own intentions.

And what were your intentions?

My wish was simply to observe a Russian who comes to Italy and discovers unexpected emotions which regard him. Of course, the same thing would have happened if I had gone to Africa, or who knows where else. This man does not understand the reason for the barriers between countries. He does not accept the artificial conventions that wish to render men different from each other. And all of this naturally provokes attrocious suffering in him. Even a child, if you ask him what we should do to understand each other better, will answer that we need to open the frontiers. Of course, it is a naive and idealistic answer, but a basically just one: the drama emerges precisely from this clash between this innocent vision of the world and the real conditions of life for a man who is away from his country.

Does your work help you?

Cinema is the most noble and important art, even though it is still expiating its original sin of having been born from commerce and the market as merchandise.

Don't you think that all of this is very close to pessimism?

On the contrary, the true pessimists are those who continue to seek happiness. Wait for two or three years and then go and ask them what they have attained.

Can I ask you where your optimism lies?

It lies in being aware that the drama of our civilization consists in a non-harmonious development between the requirements of technology and the needs of the spirit, whose perfection is the true purpose of life.  end block

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