It might make me sleepy. Although there are some that say it's the best way to watch an Andrei Tarkovsky film; through a half-awake, half-asleep state of mind, allowing those long takes to drift in and out of your own consciousness, semi or otherwise.
It was Mirror. My very first Tarkovsky. I watched it on video, a bleary VHS version, and fell in love straight away. From that speech impediment curing opening, to the barn on fire, the "typo", the terrific Spanish dancer scene, all the way to the evaporating condensation and beyond.
A treat. A parameter expanding experience. And did I feel sleepy? No. That dreamy-ness, the fractured, episodic nature of those memories, didn't condemn me to a bout of narcolepsy – it made me thirsty. I knew that Mirror was autobiography (and stylised because of that), but what would the rest of his films be like? The remaining six?
Yeah. They're great. Of course. So I watched Ivan's Childhood, then Andrei Rublev (my favourite), the original Solaris (and best – bad luck Soderbergh), then Stalker. I'd started researching them now, and having read an article about Nostalgia, I could barely wait (specifically for the scene in Rome, and the finale) for the video to be posted through my letterbox. This was at the turn of the century, you know! Finally, The Sacrifice, and I love that they had to build the house again.
No more spoilers. Promise.
But back to Mirror. And this is less of a spoiler, more of a celebration. There's a brilliant scene with a Spanish family that live in the same apartment block as the narrator, and at some point one of the daughters starts to dance the flamenco. The father slaps her, and exclaims: "Are you mocking at us or what? We taught you and we taught you, and it was no use. Now it turns out you can!"
Now, that slap is unacceptable, of course. However, it does demonstrate the father's frustration and incredulity at his daughter's sudden ability to dance. Why is this interesting? Because sometimes it takes time for talent to come. Her ability was waiting. It had, at that moment in time, clicked. All the work she had put in hadn't gone to waste. It was just waiting.
There's so much pressure these days to be great straight away – and everything has become so instant. Technology and social media have twisted the learning (or yearning) curve. Skill and talent give way to filters and tools, and we don't need to wait anymore to create something and then move on, regurgitating, fed by algorithms and fattened up with an intense desire for quick-hit self-satisfaction.
So what happens to the artist? What does it mean for the artist? Tarkovsky is big on "the artist". He talked endlessly about authenticity, and playfully, in his book Sculpting in Time, admonishes The Ascent director Larissa Shepitko for melodrama. Yeah! For melodrama! I suppose that if you're going to have a tough critic it may as well be Tarkovsky…
Art is a filter though. Not like contrast punch or dogpatch or… but a way of seeing the world, of understanding it, or coming to terms with both its beauty, and its horror. Cinematic visionaries like Tarkovsky (or Ingmar Bergman) are our filters and tools, but they did their time doing the learning thing, resulting in that relentless pursuit of truth, generously shared.
I watch my Tarkovsky collection regularly, made a lot easier now they've just been remastered and are being released on bluray by Artificial Eye. Tarkovsky explored faith and belief, art and the intellectual, and perhaps, like Tarkovsky with Mirror, I've retained what's important and relevant to me, and embellished those memories of his work because of it.
I'll always remember the first time I watched Mirror and the impact it had on me, and I hope I'll remember the last.