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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Каток и скрипка, Katok i skripka (The Steamroller and the Violin)


Not very often I will comment about short films here, but this is one that deserves a post here and more. This short film by Andrei Tarkovsky is his thesis film that earned him his diploma at the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) and the grade of отличный (excellent) that was the highest possible distinction.

No matter what I read about this short film (most claim that is not a good Tarkovsky) I need to mention that I definitively do not agree and I mention for your consideration that the unit for children’s films of the Mosfilm studio produced the short even when it was a student short film. The excellence of this short plus the above fact has to mean how even in his beginnings his outstanding work was recognized, including by the major studio in the USSR. So please do not think that this is not a masterpiece as absolutely it is.

Let me reproduce Tarkovsky words regarding this short.

“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.”

The short tells like Tarkovsky says about the friendship that grows between little Sasha and the worker and the short is totally inconsequential if you see it only for the story, that by the way was co written by Tarkovsky and fellow student Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky. But according to me the story is about contrasts, about art and labor or if you wish “the spiritual” and “the material”. Totally Tarkovsy.

To me this short is absolute Tarkovsky as here you can see his themes, methods and ideas. You have the dream scene, water falling as rain and the takes of the water in the street, the demolition scene, the boy playing violin for the worker in the alley, camera angles, reflections, pace, lighting, texture, etc. all are here and they seem to be taken care almost to perfection.

This is a masterpiece short that most film students have to wish to emulate, one that those that love Tarkvosky have to see, one that with the children story is very accessible to all audiences and a must be seen to all that enjoy serious cinema.

Big Enjoy!!!

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