Andrei Tarkovsky thought of film images as imprinted time, and of his filmmaking technique as ‘sculpting’ in time. This, his richest and most resonant work, takes time and memory as its very subject.
Its story concerns a man in his 40s looking back over his life. The narrative moves back and forward in time in a way that seeks to abolish the distinction between past and present, and thereby to evoke on screen what it’s like – from the inside – to live, as we all do, within time, somewhere between past and present, a place where the past is not past but remains present to us.
The images and sequences are presented in collage: some are colour, some black and white; some are the protagonist’s own personal, ‘subjective’ memories, others ‘objective’ memories, ones left behind as traces on strips of celluloid – newsreel footage from Germany, China, Russia. Tarkovsky needed twenty rough cuts before arriving at this intricately interflowing system of flashbacks and archival footage. It’s a stunning piece of filmmaking.