Andrei Tarkovsky – Sculpting in Time (1989)


This extraordinary book is not just about filmmaking, it’s about all art…about life, faith, inner exploration and the Russian soul. It contains exquisite poetry, mostly written by his father, Arseniy Tarkovsky, and detailed descriptions of the making of several of his films as well as photos of them that are eerie, mystical, and incredibly beautiful. Tarkovsky is the master of making us see the wonder of creation in the most mundane subjects. He brings us one step closer in our journey towards the light. From page 43: “The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as an example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good”.


“Sculpting in Time” is truly an amazing work of art in its own right. Certainly filmmakers have written books about their artistic styles in the past. Philosophers have written elaborately on the subject of aesthetics as a whole in the past as well. And yet “Sculpting in Time” offers those with aesthetic interests something truly unique.

It should be forewarned that Tarkovsky, like Ingmar Bergman, was heavily interested in aesthetic philosophy. In fact Tarkovsky’s ideas regarding art borderline the metaphysical (as this book is often used in higher level philosophy classes), and yet – through the tone in which the book is written – “Sculpting in Time” manages to appeal to the average Tarkovsky or cinema studies fan in such a way that no other aesthetics book has managed.

Tarkovsky’s self-written “Sculpting in Time” is an amazing supplement which describes the brilliant filmmaker’s use of filmic techniques but also goes a step further by explaining (at great length), why the filmmaker believes those techniques are significant. The value of his tried efforts to create a meaningful work of art directly relate to Tarkovsky’s view of art as a whole.

Tarkovsky’s views of art are complex and yet are reiterated for the reader so simply they stand out in “Sculpting in Time” like a gem. For instance the underlying theme in Tarkovsky’s writing is the idea of an “absolute truth” of art which can be derived a given piece of art. Without giving too much away, Tarkovsky’s beliefs, as expressed in his chapter “Imprinted in Time” mostly, is simply that art done for the right reasons – containing some form of objective truth within it – serves to link us (subjective beings), with an “absolute.” From that blooms Tarkovsky’s entire creative aspect fans of his films know and love him for.

I have to recommend this book to anyone interested in aesthetics, cinema studies, or Tarkovsky. I think this is a nice supplement to have when watching Tarkovsky films as well, so it might just serve to spark the interest in a philosophy buff to check out a few Tarkovsky films! Enjoy!

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