On Japanese Influences
The following is an excerpt from
Shavkat Abdusalamov, Feedback Effects, translated by Sergei Sossinsky.
Published in About Andrei Tarkovsky, Memoirs and Biographies, Progress
Publishers, Moscow 1990 ISBN 5-01-001973-6 (also available in Russian, see this
site's Bibliography section).
One film fan said: "Your Andrei [Rublov] comes from The Seven
Samurai." To begin with, he's not mine, and second, all of us come
from somewhere. We are most often shown the road to the
temple. Otherwise we would not come out of the wilderness. There was
also Confusius on Andrei's desk. To say "no" to such
a film fan is tantamount to agreeing that we never let fresh air into
our flat. In those years we read Basho and
Akutagawa. We carried Ueda Akinari
in our pocket, watched Mizoguchi in the filmlibrary.
Then Andrei got Bresson. Now I think it was the
first call of death, don't ask me why.
The Japanese amazed us not by the exotic, but by their very way of
thinking. Each personage on the screen is something exceptional.
Hence the elevated mood of the scenes. Everything accidental is
removed, the most characteristic is led into the limelight. The
warrior raises a sword - it is an event - he lowers it, a flash of
lightning. It is difficult to imagine a Samurai using his sword in an
everyday way, say, for cutting bread. But if
Kurosawa as an artist were to show such a thing, Mt.
Fuji would erupt. That is, there are incompatible things but if they
do occur, the face of the world is transformed. That was what
Japanese films were for us.
The mud is Japanese in Tarkovsky's Rublov. But what is it
like, Russian Mud? Does it have a specific odor? White cumulous
clouds on the horizon, women in babushkas with embroidered linen
towels? That's an advertisement! What does it have to do with Russia
of Rublov's age? Incidentally, the film is not about that, or rather
not only about that. It seems that only recently, almost yesterday,
Elem Klimov, his brother Gherman, photographer Nikolai Gnisyuk and I
traveled throughout North Russia. I won't describe everything, only
the incredible Mud. And then we rejoiced "It's impossible to conquer
Russia, it doesn't have the roads!" In that ancient Russia, cows were
not set afire. People did not ride into temples on horseback. And
not only then. We blew up churches without waiting for an invasion.
Peterhof was destroyed by the Nazis, we restored it, not without
pride. Yet, we're only debating whether to retore the Church
of the Savior in Moscow! Peterhof is a moment of culture. The Church
of the Savior was divine. As if God were not at the very root of
Abrupt emotional changes are alien to the oriental world outlook. Its
religious-ethical teachings always contain a certain norm of behavior,
norm of compassion. Without separating the new from the old, the
beautiful from the ugly, they put everything upside-down, confusing in
our minds the ordinary ideas of the aesthetic in nature. The dry
rustle of reeds proved to be a melody in harmony with the full moon.
Andrei was indeed enriched by the Japanese. Enrichment is not
imitation. An artist acquires something in order to broaden his world
outlook. He adopts things as if they were the missing part with the
help of which he would finally accomplish flight. Daedalus and
Icarus, feathers and wax - it's primitive. Thinking did not go any
further: it was not artistic thinking. The Japanese taught us a
lesson: wings could be made of bamboo. Not probability, but the truth
is important. I would be surprised more were I to learn that Andrei
was not influenced by the Japanese. It is alien to the nature of an
artist to wear blinders-blinkers whatever the color. If an artist is
inwardly free, he has a thousand ways of seeing, hearing and feeling