Tarkovsky’s Letters to Parajanov. From Mirror and Pomegranate book
04 Apr 2019.

Nochnaya ptica Tarkovskogo 18x25

On the occasion of Andrey Tarkovsky’s birthday (4.04.1932) we are sharing his letters to Sergei Parajanov, which were first published in “Mirror and Pomegranate” book by White Space Gallery and ArtMost Foundation in London, 2012. The great friendship between these two film directors began in the early 1970s in Kiev. They met just months before the latter was imprisoned. They regarded each other as equals and each got inspiration from the other’s work. When Parajanov was arrested, Tarkovsky along with Liliya Brick, Federico Fellini, Vasily Katanyan, Vasily Shikshin, Yuri Lubimov, Kira Muratova and many others wrote letters to him and to the Soviet authorities asking for his release. Tarkovsky wrote often to Parajanov sometimes sending artistic collages in exchange for the ones Parajanov made for him in prison.

Tarkovsky’s Letter to Parajanov. 22.1.1976, Moscow
From archives of Sergei Parajanov Museum in Yerevan. Translated by Alexander Kan

Dear Seriozha,
I’m really sorry – I haven’t written to you in a long while and I know it’s unforgivable. For more than six months I lived in the country with Larisa and Andriushka. I was getting ready for the “Hamlet” production that I will be staging at the Lenkom Theatre (Mark Zakharov) and was also writing a script on Hoffmann for Tallinn. (These days nobody really knows how to stage Ho mann or what he really means). Nobody could stage him better than Sergei Parajanov.

In the countryside I was mostly busy with the construction of a new barn. I managed to build a wonderful barn, 40 sq. metres, with an overhang and the slated roof. Unfortunately no pictures so far to send you.

polaroid 15

polaroid 15

We had a wonderful time there and I started feeling that I could probably live without the God forsaken and long-abandoned art of cinema. Living like this all my life, on the bank of the river, and writing an endlessly long book which my son would continue writing after my death, and then his son, and so on and on and on…). And living with our own work. We have a vegetable patch 1,500 sq. metres and a small garden.

Andrey-Spartak 20x25cm

Here I can’t bear it anymore: futile persuading everybody how important the art of cinema is. I really feel I’m getting closer and closer to the realisation of this idea. What keeps me from it is vanity and regret about my forgotten talent: both feelings paltry and insignificant.

The Strugatsky brothers (with my participation) are writing a script for me. I’m planning to finish its production by the spring of 77. But it’s just me planning. There’s been a lot of what I’ve been planning, but not much came out of it.

I came back from the country in mid-December and was not pleased to see either Moscow or the Muscovites.

In any case, there’s too much work for me (unlike the money). I can hardly resist the burden of its pressure and just swim along the current. I have to release my theatre production in May and in the autumn I’m supposed to start shooting. But… man proposes…

Pamyati Tarkovskogo 19x26

I’m seeing a lot of Sasha Antipenko these days – he’s staying at the Mosfilm hotel, in the same building where I live. I also saw Galia Shabanova a few times – we always talk about you when we see each other.

How are you? How’s your health? What do you need out of things that you are allowed to receive by mail? Please write or send me a message through a letter to somebody else if you’ve already exhausted your letter limit.

My warmest hugs. I wish you patience, courage and help. Larisa screams to say she’s joining in all the greetings and wishes.

Andrey Tarkovsky.

Editorial notes:
Georgy Kalatozov – cameraman, director
Alexander Antipenko (b. 1938) – cameraman who worked with Parajanov on his film Kiev Frescoes which was banned and remained unfinished.

Tarkovsky’s Letter to Parajanov 18.2.76, Moscow
From archives of Sergei Parajanov Museum in Yerevan. Translated by Alexander Kan

Dear Seriozha,
I received your letter. Thank you very much – from myself as well as from Larisa.

Yesterday at the “Hamlet” rehearsal we talked a lot about you with Archil Gomiashvili – he’s playing Claudius. I work a lot these days, and get really exhausted. It’s work for the sake of work, because the pay is really miserable. Also I’m not feeling well. My eyesight is getting worse – I need to order spectacles.

There are hardly any results of my work, they’re invisible. And enjoying work – even the most creative one – is not really something I can do (unlike you). I can’t really cherish it, or be happy about the achieved success.


By the way, here’s a quote from Horace that I remembered and found:
“ The tall pine’s more often shaken by the wind,
and it’s a high tower that falls with a louder
crash, while the mountainous summits are places
where lightning strikes.”

As to your application to be transferred – I don’t even know what to say, it’s obviously beyond me. In any case, it’s a serious issue, and before making any decisions you should take into account all possible consequences, rather than rejecting it just out of principle or of fear of changes.

I was really amused by your story about Angélique. It just proves again the existence of one and only form for art. I wouldn’t want to call it “primitive”, but it’s essential, just as our daily bread. And therefore it’s timeless. Just as bread is. As soon as there’s no bread, there’s no man. As soon as there’s no art, there’s no man.

polaroid 50

polaroid 50

The difference is that man knows that he can starve to death without bread. But he doesn’t know that he can starve to death without art. Only a few know.

(I’m sending you a few shots from “Rublev”. It’s from a (test) widescreen copy that never got realised. It’s the scene of Andrey parting with Daniil).

Mayatnik Tarkovskogo 21x25cm

As to [Lilya] Brik’s letter – Larisa will keep it for you. As for me I don’t need it. I have a firm opinion about you, and let me assure you, it’s deeper. For two reasons: 1) we are of the same generation (nearly) 2) we are birds of a feather, both artists. There’s a third reason: I always say the truth. You are more talented than they think you are. But I may be wrong. But in any case you’re an infinitely kind man. Unlike me. Or rather I’m not indifferent to the reasons and motivations of what people do while you don’t really care, you just can’t be bothered.

Warmest hugs, wish you health and courage.
Andrey T.
Larisa sends her love.

Editorial notes:
Archil Gomiashvili, actor, was supposed to be in the Kiev Frescoes film
Angelique and the King, a 1966 French historical romantic adventure film, hugely popular in the USSR in the 1960-70s (translator’s note)

Letters were first published in Mirror & Pomegranate: Sergei Parajanov and Andrey Tarkovsky, book by White Space Gallery and ArtMost Foundation, London in 2012. With thanks to Henrietta Foster, Zaven Sargsyan, director of Sergei Parajanov Museum in Yerevan and Andrey Tarkovsky Foundation in Florence.

Copyright note: No part of this text may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publishers. Artworks and archives of Sergei Parajanov © Sergei Parajanov Museum

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