Moscow Elegy, 1988

More allusive and evocative than biographical in content, Moscow Elegy is Aleksandr Sokurov’s tribute documentary to Russian filmmaker, friend, and mentor, Andrei Tarkovsky that concentrates on the iconic filmmaker’s final years in Western Europe. Incorporating thematically representative scenes from Tarkovsky’s last two, deeply spiritual, non-Russian films, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice, as well as behind the scenes footage that show a contemplative, but inexhaustibly driven creative visionary (reviewing the script for Nostalghia with screenwriter Tonino Guerra in Italy and discussing the mechanics of an exterior shot with cinematographer Sven Nyquist on the set of The Sacrifice in Sweden), juxtaposed against traumatic political events in the Soviet Union (specifically, the deaths of Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov), Sokurov illustrates Tarkovsky’s continued struggle between individual expression and a bureaucratically-induced artistic suppression in the Soviet Union that led to his reluctant exile. Through pervasive sepia tones, lingering images of empty spaces from Tarkovsky’s past, and a haunting and ethereal bookend shot of Tarkovsky’s late mother, Maya Ivanovna Vishnyakova, Sokurov poignantly reflects on the melancholic longing and palpable void of Tarkovsky’s absence – first personally, as Sokurov awaits the return of his colleague and cinematic kindred spirit to their beloved motherland, then globally, as the international community responds to the tragic news of Tarkovsky’s untimely death.

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