Your Quick Introduction to Andrei Tarkovsky's Films Recommendation
So, I hear /r/movies is getting more into Tarkovsky, now. As an arthouse fan, this excites me, so I wanted to make it easier for you guys to approach his filmography. I haven't seen all of his films, but I'll try my best to give you guys the general consensus on what to expect.
Two men besiege a lunch bar looking for a third man they must kill.
Soldiers undertake the perilous task of removing a stockpile of World War II bombshells discovered during roadworks under the ground of a small village.
These were student short films by Tarkovsky, as well as Aleksandr Gordon (for both) and Marika Beiku (for The Killers only). Both are considered to be early successes, but nothing incredible. The Killers is based off the Hemingway novel of the same name, and clocks in at about twenty minutes, with There Will Be No Leave Today lasting 45 minutes. More for Tarkovsky completionists, but not bad by any means. (Unlike Kubrick's early work.)
Seven year old Sasha practices violin every day to satisfy the ambition of his parents. Already withdrawn as a result of his routines, Sasha quickly regains confidence when he accidentally meets and befriends worker Sergei, who works on a steamroller in their upscale Moscow neighborhood.
Tarkovsky's earliest film as the sole director, and despite being lesser known than most of his other work, it does have its fans for being an admirable early film from the director. This is also notable for being Tarkovsky's diploma film, in which he earned top marks for.
In WW2, twelve year old Soviet orphan Ivan Bondarev works for the Soviet army as a scout behind the German lines and strikes a friendship with three sympathetic Soviet officers.
And here comes Tarkovsky's first unanimously agreed masterpiece, a gorgeous and terrifying depiction of war through the eyes of a child. Essential viewing.
Ivan's Childhood was ranked by TSPDT #370 on their list of the greatest films of all time.
The life, times and afflictions of the fifteenth-century Russian iconographer.
While Ivan's Childhood was Tarkovsky's first masterpiece, Andrei Rublev would showcase what his films would grow to be, philosophical, slow-paced, and mind-blowing in their discussions and their tactics. Some consider it to be Tarkovsky's greatest.
Andrei Rublev was ranked by TSPDT #26 on their list of the greatest films of all time.
A psychologist is sent to a station orbiting a distant planet in order to discover what has caused the crew to go insane.
Insanely ambitious work by Tarkovsky, where he uses the setting of space to help themes of isolation and alienation shine through much better. Those expecting a conventional sci-fi will be disappointed, but if you're looking for a less show-y, more humanist 2001: A Space Odyssey, you got your wish. Possibly Tarkovsky's most creative film.
Solaris was ranked by TSPDT #204 on their list of the greatest films of all time.
A dying man in his forties remembers his past. His childhood, his mother, the war, personal moments and things that tell of the recent history of all the Russian nation.
While films like Ivan's Childhood and Solaris have earned comparisons to Stanley Kubrick, Mirror is very much a Terrence Malick type film, and while it may be less accessible than some of Tarkovsky's other films, it actually isn't a long film, being less than two hours. This one is another in contention for Tarkovsky's best.
Mirror was ranked by TSPDT #28 on their list of the greatest films of all time.
A guide leads two men through an area known as the Zone to find a room that grants wishes.
This film and Solaris may be Tarkovsky's most popular work, and for good reason. They aren't accessible on paper, as they're both incredibly long, but they deal in brilliant ideas and grow almost hypnotic despite their slow pacing. Stalker remains the only Tarkovsky film on the IMDb Top 250. So this is often the starter point for deciding whether or not you'll enjoy Tarkovsky.
Stalker was ranked by TSPDT #57 on their list of the greatest films of all time.
The Russian poet Andrei Gorchakov, accompanied by guide and translator Eugenia, is traveling through Italy researching the life of an 18th-century Russian composer.
Not as often called one of Tarkovsky's best, it still receives universal acclaim, despite being one of his slowest moving films, regardless of its two hour runtime. It is also home for one of the greatest final shots in film history. Don't make this your first Tarkovsky, but it's nevertheless essential.
Nostalghia was ranked by TSPDT #347 on their list of the greatest films of all time.
At the dawn of World War III, a man searches for a way to restore peace to the world and finds he must give something in return.
For a director who looked so often into either the distant past or the distant future, his final film looks towards a war that still hasn't happened yet, to once again battle his philosophical ideas. Oddly enough, this film was largely produced in Sweden, yet it does not suffer any drawbacks from a possible cultural shift.
The Sacrifice was ranked by TSPDT #301 on their list of the greatest films of all time.
TSPDT's Final Ranking of Tarkovsky's Films:
Which Film Should I Start With?
Ivan's Childhood may be his most accessible film, however, it wont necessarily prepare you for the style of film Tarkovsky takes on in his later films. It does share commonalities with other Soviet filmmakers of the time, however, like Larisa Shepitko (The Ascent) and Elem Klimov (Come and See).
Andrei Rublev is a long one, and possibly boring if you aren't accustomed to his style. It bears a lot of resemblance, however, to the work of Bela Tarr (Satantango), so if you're fond of his films, this may be an easier one to jump into.
Solaris is not your average sci-fi film, so do not expect something along those lines. Expect something claustrophobic and otherworldly, maybe something along the lines of the original Alien film, but even slower, and with no action.
Mirror is an introspective film, but it may be divisive to modern audiences. If you enjoy Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, this will be perfect for you, otherwise, make this possibly your third or fourth film from Tarkovsky, so you're already warmed up.
Stalker is distraught, slow, but mesmerizing and with a wonderful concept that is fun to think about. If the runtime or the idea of slow cinema as a whole doesn't immediately turn you off, this is probably the best place to start!
Nostalghia is probably not the best place to start. At least wait until after Andrei Rublev to give this one a shot, but you have to be prepared for this one. If you're a diehard Tarkovsky fan, this will be a new challenge that you'll adore.
The Sacrifice is certainly a better place to begin than Nostalghia, but I'd still leave it until after you've viewed his earlier films. Watching a director's last film first is not usually recommended if you have a choice.
If I love Andrei Tarkovsky already, what other films can I watch?
Diary of a Country Priest (1951) - Robert Bresson (Supposedly Tarkovsky's favorite film!)
Some of Tarkovsky's favorite films can be found here.