Tarkovsky, Ranked

“We can express our feelings regarding the world around us either by poetic or by descriptive means. I prefer to express myself metaphorically. Let me stress: metaphorically, not symbolically. A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image — as opposed to a symbol — is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite. We can analyse the formula that constitutes a symbol, while metaphor is a being-within-itself, it’s a monomial. It falls apart at any attempt of touching it.”

Andrei Tarkovsky created some of the most beautiful, transcendental, and awe-inspiring films I’ve had the privilege of viewing. They contain such love, tranquility, and simplicity that they are imbued with a seemingly mystical capacity to produce in the viewer a higher state of conscious awareness, contemplation, and even the all-too-rare aesthetic experience. What’s more, he instills so much of his self – his thoughts, his emotions, his soul – within his work, that the viewer experiences the revelation of profound truths: the existential truth about who this man is, and the phenomenological truth about how he subjectively experienced the world. Experiencing Tarkovsky is unlike any other; if there are any films that can, his films refute any suspicion that film cannot be considered art.

In particular, I consider Tarkovsky a master of lighting and colour organization. His work in these respects is nothing short of brilliance.

I had the most difficulty ordering the first three titles in this list. I believe each of them could be considered the greatest film ever created; for this reason, they are interchangeable, and where they lie depends on how one chooses to critique them. The order I have chosen is based on artistic worth and personal veneration, which I consider especially valuable of film. Had I chosen based on philosophic worth, the second ranked title would be first; had I chosen based on craftsmanship, the third ranked title would be first. I ought to note that I regard all three titles as secure notches in my top ten, with the primary two likely posited in my top five.I have given a 5 star rating to all seven of Tarkovsky’s features, as well as the short film placed 8th. 9 and 10 receive 4/5 stars, and 11 receives 3/5

Finally, Anatoli Solonitsyn deserves recognition for his work. I agree with Tarkovsky himself that Solonitsyn was one of the finest actor’s of his day. I truly wish he had lived long enough to play the lead roles in Nostalghia and The Sacrifice as planned; I believe he would have been the optimal lead role for either film, and his presence would have benefited them both.




Andrei Rublev



Ivan’s Childhood


The Steamroller And The Violin

Voyage In Time

There Will Be No Leave Today

The Killers


Scenes I particularly love:

The Steamroller And The Violin
-The kaleidoscopic vision of reflected images in a multiple-way mirror.

Ivan’s Childhood
– The first scene, as the short shot of Ivan elevates through the tree and stops at a super-long shot of Ivan in the middle of the field.
– The memory/dream-sequence of Ivan and his sister in the back of a wagon picking apples.

Andrei Rublev
– The buffoon singing that bizarre song near the beginning.
– Andrei nervously talks with Danila, before he leaves to meet Theophanes.
– The entire “Bell” act.
– Kirill’s revelation; when Kirril breaks down, tells Andrei the truth about his jealousy and his realization that talent is a gift from God that should not be wasted, but used to bring joy, love, and hope to all those suffering.
– Boriska breaking down in Andrei’s arms. The succession of artists…Thephanes, Andrei Rublev, Boriska

– Burton’s speech about what he saw on Solaris.
– Chris watching the video left by Dr. Sartorious.
– The final scene; he’s still on Solaris.

– The first scene of Yuri Zhary with a speech impediment relieving the tension he’s holding. This is honestly quite possibly my favorite scene of any film of all time, and I think people underestimate it’s vitality in understanding the film.
– The house-fire in the beginning.
– Every image of one or more reflected images.
– The grenade scene.

– The two instances wherein a light is turned on and off, and the light ever so slowly creeps on, makes a sharp dinging sound and, with a short flash of light, instantly returns to darkness. I particularly appreciate the second of the two.
– All the dialogue.
– The concept of the Zone (alright it’s not a scene, but it had to be mentioned).
– The final scene of the little telepathic monkey (Stalker’s daughter). The slow and minimal amount of “snow” makes this scene especially beautiful. I think natural flower cotton was used, it looks similar to the white feathery fluff that comes off those little weeds kids like to blow.

– The rain pouring into Domenico’s shelter, the green and brown half-full bottle being rained on.
– The super green scene; Andrei’s monologue to that little girl.
– Domenico sets himself on fire, Andrei takes the lit candle across the pool and takes his final breath as he sets the candle down.

– The sound-track during the opening and end credits.
– Alexander’s monologue to The Lord about sacrifice and asceticism.
– The final 20 minutes, the house being set on fire. This is easily one of the greatest endings to any film I have ever seen.


Favourite stills (Don’t mind the quality, they are screen-shots of my PC):


About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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