• February 25, 2014

Excerpts from the Q&A with Dmitry Trakovsky
and Michal Leszczylowski

Your inter­view, among a few others, stood out in the movie as being more per­sonal, more “flesh and blood”...

Michal: “Maybe it’s because I treated him like a person of flesh and blood. He was funny, he was witty... We had a lot of beer too... He was a normal genius. I made a movie about him [1], just to build him a mon­u­ment, as he did not have any. I per­ceived him as an extremely sen­si­tive, very wise human being. Unfortunately born in Russia... In Soviet Russia... It’s like a war, his life was like a war. He made only five movies in Russia... Three of them, he had to beg for, at the highest pos­sible level, the cen­tral com­mittee of the com­mu­nist party. So he made only two movies by normal stan­dards. Three were like excep­tions. And after ’The mirror,’ he was con­sid­ered lost in his country. He showed me an article from some cinema magazine in Russia, where there was some open letter: How to help Tarkovsky, because he lost his way, and he is artis­ti­cally lost, so we, as film­makers, have to help him!”

Where did his deep rela­tion­ship to Christianity and his under­standing of God and redemp­tion come from, and did he think of him­self as a reli­gious film­maker?

Dmitry: “Def­i­nitely, a reflec­tion of his spir­i­tual world is found in his father’s poetry. There was a cer­tain cul­ture where, I think, reli­gion was inter­woven into their com­mu­nity, so I am cer­tain that he was reli­gious, and Christian, but I am not sure whether he would say he was a ’reli­gious film­maker.’ There doesn’t seem to be any dog­matic con­tent in his films.”

Michal:“I would say exactly the same, that the longing for a father, this driving force of very many artists, father or mother –and it applies for all of us—was what moved Tarkovsky. His father was a poet, and he then became a poet of the cinema, which was not inten­tional from the begin­ning. He tried to make dif­ferent things. And he was a deeply spir­i­tual person, open for exis­tence in that spir­i­tual level, but not that reli­gious in the meaning of going to churches and ser­vices... But very much writing and reading and talking about God, yes... in Christian tra­di­tion.”

One of the quo­ta­tions that was clearly printed on screen is: “I want to be remem­bered as a sinner.” So obvi­ously he had some spir­i­tual thoughts in his head.

Michal: “Yes, but he was a very humble person, he would see him­self as some­body who is as a lot of folks, a normal human being. He never put him­self on a mon­u­ment.”

During your inter­view in the doc­u­men­tary you say that Tarkovsky was “a ser­vant to the work of art.” I would like to hear more about it... In what way was he a ser­vant?

Michal: “I have been editing films for forty years, and I sat with many direc­tors in the editing room, but only one of them, and that was Tarkovsky... we were sit­ting, working, and he said, sud­denly he said: "you know, I feel that small [he lifts his right hand and shows the tiny space between his index finger and thumb] when I look at the pic­tures...” So he was very humble. And that is one of the most impor­tant things I learned from him. I was young, I was kind of 20 years younger, so of course I treated him as a master of the uni­verse... [laughs] He is in my mind forever. And I really tried to live like that, according to that since then. I teach editing, among other things, and I try to teach it, and it’s very dif­fi­cult in today’s world, to explain to someone that the ego is not the main point in life. Tarkovsky is really the one who who made me see it, really, he was really as a ser­vant, you know...”

[1] Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, Michal Leszcsylowski (1988)

Back to top