While still a student at university, Andrei Tarkovsky visited a clairvoyant who, at the future filmmaker’s request, called up the spirit of fellow countryman and author Boris Pasternak. “You will make seven films!” the Dr. Zhivago novelist told Tarkovsky in the stentorian tones of the spirit world. “Only seven?” came his disappointed reply. To which Pasternak amended, “But they’ll all be good!” Every frame of Tarkovsky’s filmography is haunted by that simple prophecy; his cinema at its best seems to exist outside the realm of natural law, defying the mortal encroachments that eventually consumed the director in the form of a fatal cancer. Recently released on DVD by Facets Video, Voyage in Time (a Tarkovsky side-project to his—pace Pasternak—seven features) acts as a making-of companion piece to his sixth film Nostalghia, though, befitting Tarkovsky’s inimitable cinematic sense, it’s unlike anything one’s ever seen. For a little over an hour the director and Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra (a frequent Antonioni collaborator) engage in spirited dialogues on art and life while moving through a striking series of exterior and interior tableaus. Tarkovsky makes no pretenses toward documentary in Voyage in Time—he and Guerra are mere figures in a succession of landscapes and this falsification of their creative experience helps to undercut their conversation’s inherent egotism. Essentially, Tarkovsky solves the problem of the behind-the-scenes documentary by absorbing himself into the mise-en-scène, becoming a character in his own story rather than its god-like figurehead. Tarkovsky is a clearly controlling man, but Voyage in Time reveals the more self-effacing aspects of his personality, forever humble before the holy power of cinema.
Sad to say that Facets has botched this release. Digital artifacts and audio hiss n’ crackle are prevalent in the full-frame mono transfer. There’s a herky-jerkiness to any sequence reliant on movement of camera or character and this suggests the NTSC DVD is made from a PAL source. In addition, according to a Tarkovsky website, Facets used a print with incorrectly translated and misspelled subtitles. This is confirmed at several points in the film (e.g., when Tarkovsky’s film Stalker is translated as Stalkin’).
None on the actual DVD, but an insert booklet featuring an interview with Tonino Guerra and an essay by Italian film critic Alberto Crespi is included.
A terrible transfer of an essential film.