The Visual Style of My Upcoming Film Part 1: Tarkovsky

One of my favorite aspects about this film is that I have never seen anything like it before narratively. However, I am still drawing stylistic inspiration from some of my favorite filmmakers. There is one in particular that I keep going back to when thinking about the visual style of this film, and that is one Mr. Andrei Tarkovsky.

This Russian director made seven films that spanned from 1962 to 1986. The reason his career was so short was that he died from cancer at a young age. In fact, many suspect that he died due to chemical exposure on the set of his fourth film, Stalker. Even though I have only seen four of his films, Tarkovsky has become one of my all-time favorite filmmakers along with Damien Chazelle, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Stanley Kubrick, and Steven Spielberg. In fact, he cemented himself on that list with the first film I watched of his, Stalker (1979), and that film is now the primary inspiration for the visuals of my film.

Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” (1979)

Even though the stories are quite different, I admire the elegance of his relatively simple shots that emphasize the control nature has over the characters; it is pure visual poetry. Every aspect of the frame is meticulously calculated so that each shot tells a story while also creating a pleasing aesthetic. I’ve come to the realization that excluding the technical aspect of the camera and focusing on what’s within the frame, his films are so beautiful because of the textures in his locations. He manipulates nature to add meaning while also enhancing the visuals; an example of this is the “meat grinder” scene from Stalker where he creates small mounds of green sand to emphasize the unusual powers of The Zone. However, another example of him enhancing the environment for the screen can be found in each of his films: he constantly uses puddles. Water usually has a symbolic meaning attached to it that varies from film to film, but it also creates a beautiful and unusual texture that makes it impossible for me to take my eyes off the screen.

Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” (1979). Meat Grinder scene.

My favorite example of that technique and also probably my favorite scene of any movie is the climax of his final film, The Sacrifice. This scene, in my eyes, is the best use of technical spectacle (I am a sucker for spectacle) meeting story. *SPOILER* In a single 9-minute shot, the camera moves back and forth between a house beginning to burn, a family discovering it, dealing with it and coming to terms, and ending with the house collapsing, all while dealing with the emotional through-line of an old man sacrificing his life so that his family may have a better one. *END SPOILER*. To check out the full scene, you can watch it on YouTube:

Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice” (1986)

Stay tuned for a post about his technical excellence in the near future!

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