By Yash Thakur. Posted on November 30, 2015
One of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky did much more than just make films. The master is recognized for his seminal contribution to cinema in terms of its language, form and content. Tarkovsky has also inspired thousands of artists across the world. His pathbreaking approach to time and space in his films and his ode to cinema as poetry have made his oeuvre of films, essays in motion.
Like any creative person, inspiration is one of the keys to creation. One has to absorb to be able to generate new ideas. As a student of cinema, Tarkovsky watched the works of directors like Bergman, Bresson, Andrzej Wajda and Mizoguchi, apart from the films of Italian Neo-realists and French New Wave directors.
In a rare find, we came across this handwritten list of Tarkovsky's 10 favorite films. The list was penned in 1972 which he gave to a film critic Leonid Kozlow. The list has two films by Bergman, two by Bresson, and one each by Mizoguchi, Bunuel, Teshigahara, Kurosawa & Chaplin. The list was almost ready, before Tarkovsky decided to add another name to the list, that of City Lights by Chaplin.
Here's a small brief on each of the films in the list. How many of these have you seen?
An austere look at the experiences of a young priest in a small French parish, Robert Bresson's masterly Le Journal d'un curé de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest) presents a powerful, complex exploration of faith underneath a deceptively simple exterior. Drawn from a novel by Georges Bernanos, the film centers on the priest of Ambricourt (Claude Laydu), a withdrawn, devout young man whose social awkwardness leaves him isolated from the community he is meant to serve.
Winter Light is the second in a trilogy of dramas by acclaimed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman that explores religious faith and doubts in a visceral, visual, and provocative manner. The first, Through a Glass Darkly, was an international success and heralded a new phase in the director's career. The compelling drama is set within a three-hour period on a Sunday afternoon in November, and begins when the local pastor, Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Bjornstrand), is finishing his sermon.
Among those attending the sermon is Marta (Ingrid Thulin) a plain-looking schoolteacher who has long been in love with the pastor. Meanwhile, fisherman Jonas (Max von Sydow) is anxiety-ridden over the nuclear power of the Communist Chinese, but Pastor Ericsson cannot help him, saddled with overwhelming spiritual dilemmas of his own. As Ericsson struggles with his demons and faces Marta's unwanted (and to him, repugnant) romantic attentions, some hints of the qualities of God begin to surface.
One of cinema's true innovators, Luis Buñuel takes a Spanish novel about a Don Quixote-like priest who is ridiculed for following the path of Christ, and brilliantly transposes it to turn-of-the-century Mexico. Nazarin follows Don Nazario, who decides to go on a religious trip with two women, living out his ideals until they are smashed by an uncaring world.
Wild Strawberries follows an aging medical professor who reassesses his life while journeying to his former university to receive an honorary degree. Borg travels with his estranged daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin) and revisits many of the landmarks of his past, conjuring up memories of his family and of his onetime sweetheart Sara (Bibi Andersson). This classic art movie remains one of Bergman's most accessible films and one of the most influential European art movies of its generation.
Wandering the city streets, the little tramp happens upon a blind flower girl who mistakes him for a rich man. The tramp later saves a drunken millionaire who is attempting to drown himself in the river. The millionaire becomes his best friend. That is, until he sobers up and no longer recognizes the Tramp. In City Lights, friendship and social ranking are not always as they seem. We enter a world of a disenchanted bourgeoisie, where a tramp is king and a blind girl, queen.
Ugetsu is a gorgeous supernatural fable about the folly of men with dreams larger than their abilities and their women who suffer as a result. Genjuro (Masuyaki Mori) is a potter who longs for wealth and luxury, while Tobei (Sakae Ozawa), a farmer, dreams of the glories of being a Samurai to the point of ignoring his wife. Though a war rages around them, they venture to town to sell their wares.
Akira Kurosawa's epic tale concerns honor and duty during a time when the old traditional order is breaking down. A Samurai answers the request of a village's for protection after he falls on hard times. The town needs protection from bandits, so the Samurai gathers six others to help him teach the people how to defend themselves, and the villagers provide the soldiers with food. A giant battle occurs when 40 bandits attack the village. Seven Samurai is an epic adventure classic with an engrossing story, memorable characters, and stunning action sequences that make it one of the most influential films ever made.
Shot in 1965, when its director was suffering from deep depression, Persona is Ingmar Bergman’s most radical work—a minimalist two-hander (in which only one person speaks for the vast majority of the movie) that expanded what cinema could do in terms of both abstract montage and the juxtaposition of human faces. The film introduces a young nurse, Alma (Bibi Andersson), who’s placed in charge of a famous actress, Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann). Elisabet, Alma is informed, had some sort of breakdown while performing onstage, and now refuses to speak or even move.
Robert Bresson directed this grim but moving story of a girl forced to grow up quickly due to the unfortunate circumstances which surround her. Fourteen-year-old Mouchette (Nadine Nortier) faces hardships everywhere in her difficult life. Her father (Paul Hebert) is a cruel drunk who neglects her. Meanwhile, her mother (Maria Cardinal) lies ill, slowly dying. One day, fleeing a rainstorm, Mouchette comes across Arsène (Jean-Claude Guilbert), a poacher with a violent streak. He lets her take shelter in his cabin but then assaults her.
When entomologist Jumpei (Eiji Okada) travels to sand dunes on an expedition, he is met by a group of people who offer him a place to spend the night. They soon lead him to a house at the bottom of a sandpit. Upon climbing into the pit, he finds a young widow (Kyoko Kishida) living alone. Placed there by the villagers, her task is to dig sand out of the pit -- not only so that they can avoid getting buried, but so that the locals can use it for construction. The next morning, when Jumpei attempts to leave, he finds that the ladder which brought him into the pit is no longer there and the villagers inform him that he must stay and help the woman dig. Women in the Dunes takes a simple yet effective route in philosophical allegory, focusing upon the couple's oppressive confinement and the force of their physical attraction to each other in spite of--or because of--their situation.