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Andrei Tarkovsky’s first film: ‘The Steamroller and the Violin’ from 1960

Posted September 23rd, 2011

Film, Russia, Videos


Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky (April 4, 1932 – December 29, 1986) was a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, writer, film editor, film theorist, theatre and opera director, widely regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century. Tarkovsky’s films include Andrei Rublev, Solaris, The Mirror, and Stalker. He directed the first five of his seven feature films in the Soviet Union; his last two films were produced in Italy and Sweden, respectively. They are characterized by spirituality and metaphysical themes, long takes, lack of conventional dramatic structure and plot, and distinctively authored use of cinematography.

Film director Ingmar Bergman said of Tarkovsky:
Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.

Now a very interesting find, Tarkovsky’s diploma film, popped up over at Nostalghia.com : “In 1960 Tarkovsky graduated from the VGIK with top marks and was awarded its Director’s Diploma, No. 756038. (VGIK is the acronym for the All-Union State Cinema Institute, Vsesoyuznyi Gosudarstvennyi Institut Kinematografii, the leading film school in Russia. Its founders in 1919 included Vladimir Gardin and Lev Kuleshov.) His diploma film, The Steamroller and the Violin, was completed at the Mosfilm Studios that same year. He co-wrote the script with his fellow student Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky, with whom he was subsequently to write Andrei Rublov. They worked on the script for more than six months during the period 1959-60. A Polish journalist, one Mr. Zdzislaw Ornatowski, paid a visit to Mosfilm for the purpose of talking to some of the young and ambitious filmmakers working there at the time. Upon returning to Poland, he published an article called “Films of the young: The Steamroller and the Violin” . In this article – based around what is apparently the first ever interview Andrei Tarkovsky gave for the media, presented here by Nostalghia.com for the first time in English – Andrei states:

It will be a short-feature film. My original idea was not to use this screenplay for a full-length feature – that would ruin the entire composition. The story in the film is very simple. The action takes place within one day, the dramaturgy is without sharp conflicts, it is non-traditional. Its main characters are a young worker driving a steamroller at a road construction and a young sensitive boy who is learning to play the violin. They become friends. Those two people, so different in every respect, complement and need one another.

Although it’s dangerous to admit – because one doesn’t know whether the film will be successful – the intent is to make a poetic film. We are basing practically everything on mood, on atmosphere. In my film there has to be the dramaturgy of image, not of literature. I offered the role of the worker to Vladimir Zamyansky, an actor from the youngest and perhaps most interesting theater “Sovremennik.” The little Sasha is played by a seven-year old music school student, Igor Fomchenko. I am very happy with them.”

Read on at Nostalghia.com.

The Steamroller and the Violin (1960) (English subtitles)

Part 2