I blame myself more than I blame Tarkovsky, though. Several of his earlier works hit me so hard I expected nothing but perfection from him going forward. Yet perfection, as we all know, is an impossible ideal and a terrible thing to force onto someone else.
Still, I know I’m not alone when I look at the Russian filmmakers final two works, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice, and feel a sense of disappointment. In his new book, Zona, which I’m nearly halfway through by now, Geoff Dyer says:
By the time of his final films...[Tarkovsky] is reliant both conceptually and incrementally on Tarkovskyan cliché. Bergman said that, towards the end, Tarkovsky ‘began making films that copied Tarkovsky.’ Wim Wenders felt exactly the same way about Nostalghia, that Tarkovsky was ‘using some of his typical narrative devices and shots as if they were between quotation marks.’ The guru became his own most devoted disciple (49).
I can’t put my finger on specifically what Dyer, Bergman, and Wenders are objecting to, but for me it’s Tarkovsky’s obsession with the long-take aesthetic--a technique which, I should add, I’m not opposed to. When used in the right way, it can be one of the most compelling tools in the filmmaker’s toolbox (4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days jumps to mind as an example). There are times, though, when that kind of approach just doesn’t work, and for me, The Sacrifice is a prime example.