Bergsonian Duration in the Films of Andrej Tarkovskij

Andrej Tarkovskij’s preoccupation with time has been widely discussed by film critics and in his own writings and interviews. His perception of time was ambiguous. He belittled time as merely a mode of our material existence, referring to it in his Diaries as “… such a simple, almost primitive idea … . Time is just a means of communication. We are swaddled in it, cocooned, and there is nothing to stop us tearing off the wadding of centuries that envelops us so that all our awareness should be common, one, simultaneous.” On the other hand, he distinguished cinema as a unique genre for its ability to portray real time, to repeat it in different combinations; thus, a viewer may experience directly a parallel reality of a film, in which actual events are intertwined with dreams and memories. It was his task to create the time of the psychological states of his hero which significantly shaped the aesthetics of the hero’s cinematic world. Therefore, he used his famous long shots and careful editing. This poetic time is characterized by a fusion of past, present and future so that the narration ceases to be linear and convolutes, presenting some kind of puzzle to the viewer. For example, the final scene of Mirror shows the narrator’s dream(?), in which he sees his past: himself as a child in the country, where he spent his childhood, with his little sister and his mother, who has her present face, the face of an old woman. What meaning and what significance did the director put in this episode, the final episode of the film? Why, in a scene from Nostalghia, did Domenico, one of the protagonists, declare, “1+1=1”? Among other interpretations, I suggest one which may shed light on these and some other “enigmatic” moments in Tarkovskij’s films; I believe that Tarkovskij’s concept of time resembles that of the French philosopher Henri Bergson.

In my paper I apply the main principles of Bergsonian philosophy to analyze the following issues:

1. in Mirror, Nostalghia, and The Sacrifice, the development of plots, memory as foreknowledge, and the fusion of dreams and memories into reality (Bergsonian duration as a temporary dimension of the films’ narratives).

2. the pattern of the inconsequence of Tarkovskij’s heroes’ actions, and discrepancies in his cinematic narration ( Bergsonian notion of human freedom, his denial of the causality of human behavior).

3. the spiritual quest of Tarkovskij’s protagonists and the Bergsonian concept of intuition.