Andrei Tarkovsky

The last letter to father

This is Andrei Tarkovsky's answer to the letter his father Arseny had written on 6 September 1983 which contained a remark about artists in "exile". Andrei's response was first published in the magazine Ogonyok in 1987. That version had a couple of omissions marked with the "(...)" sign and one entire (small) paragraph dropped without the marking — probably an eyeskip on the part of the editor. The letter was published again in 1990 as Tsena prozrenya and it restored the portions missing from Ogonyok except it silently omitted the Sergei Bondarchuk remark. It seems the full text is currently available only in French in Larissa Tarkovskaya's book. We put it all together in the version below.

Dear Father!

I am really saddened to hear that you feel I supposedly chose the role of an "exile" and am all but getting ready to abandon my Russia... I don't know who finds it convenient to present in this manner the difficult situation I have found myself in "thanks" to many years of persecution by the authorities at the Goskino and, in particular, its chairman — Yermash.

Perhaps you haven't been keeping track but out of over twenty years of my work in Soviet cinema I was unemployed for about 17 years. Goskino didn't want me to work! They persecuted me all this time and the last drop was the scandal in Cannes due to the intrigues of Bondarchuk who, as a member of the festival jury and on the instigation of his superiors, did everything he could (although in vain) to make sure Nostalghia receives no prize (I received three in all).

I consider this film patriotic in the highest sense and many of the thoughts you have bitterly reproached me with have been expressed there. Ask Yermash for an authorisation to view it and you'll understand everything, and you'll agree with me...

The authorities' wish to trample over my feelings means an obvious and ardent desire, a dream to get rid of me, to save themselves from me and from the art they don't need.

When almost none of Mayakovsky's colleagues showed at the exhibition commemorating twentieth anniversary of his work, the poet took it as the most cruel and most unjust blow and many literary experts consider this event one of the main reasons why he shot himself.

For my 50th birthday there was not only no exhibition, there was not even an announcement or gratulations in our film journal as it is always done for every member of the Cinematographers' Union.

But this is all unimportant — and there are dozens of reasons for it, all of which I find humiliating. You are simply not up-to-date on all this.

Furthermore, my intent is not to stay away for too long. I'm asking the authorities for a passport for myself, Larissa, Andryusha, and his grandmother with whom we could together live abroad for 3 years in order to fulfil, or rather to turn into reality my cherished dream: to stage the opera Boris Godunov at Covent Garden in London and to make Hamlet on film. For this reason I sent my application to the Goskino. But I received no answer to this day.

I am certain that the government grants me permission both for this work and for the arrival of Andryusha and his grandma whom I haven't seen for one year and a half already; I am certain the government won't continue to insist on any inhuman and unjust response to my application.

Its authority is so great that to think in my present situation I could be forcing anyone to reach the right decision is simply laughable; I have no other choice: I cannot allow myself to be humiliated to this extent, and my letter is a request, not an order. As far as my patriotic feelings are concerned, watch Nostalghia (if they show it to you) and you'll agree with the feelings I have for my country.

I am certain everything will end well, I shall complete my work here and return very soon to Moscow with Anna Semyonovna and Andrei and Lara to hug you and all those dear to us even if in Moscow I shall remain (for sure) unemployed. This is nothing new to me.

I am sure the government will not refuse my humble and natural request. (In case the unbelievable happens, there will be an awful scandal. God forbid, this is what I want to avoid, you can surely understand.) I am not a dissident but an artist who contributed his part to the treasure-box of the glory of the Soviet cinema. And not the worst part either, I suspect... (In "Sovietskiy film" one talentless critic — instructed by the authorities — belatedly called me "a great director"). And I earned more money (hard currency) for my country than most.

That's why I cannot understand the unjust and inhuman treatment I receive. I have remained a Soviet artist and I shall remain one, no matter what the guilty ones are saying, those who are trying to force me out abroad.

Many many kisses from me, wish you health and strength.

Hope to see you again soon.
Your son — unhappy and tormented Andrei Tarkovsky.

P.S. — Lara presents her compliments.

Rome, 16.09.83   end block

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