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- The Cinema of Tarkovsky
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We feel the space, not merely as a con- tainer, a frame for the objects, but the space itself, independently of the individual objects it contains. Moreover, the apparent absence of action, and hence the monotony, in these instances cre- ates a narrative emptiness that generates an urge to fill it with some kind of meaning or metaphysical presence.
The terms of cartography the science of register- ing space and chronology the science of registering time make one think that space is usually associated with writing graphia and time with speech logos. Time, however, is not a palpable substance and is never static. Time can- not be conceived of using the three spatial dimensions because it itself constitutes a fourth, qualitatively different dimension.
Thus, Tarkovsky defines his art in impossibly possible terms — his defini- tion is based on the constant striving towards the unachievable. Moreover, it is commonplace to claim that the human awareness of time is spatially bound: the progression of externally localized events causal relations makes temporal rela- tions manifest themselves. Space and time are indeed fundamentally interrelated — neither taken by itself can exist without the other. Points and moments are interconnected — time is intrinsically spatial, while space is intrin- sically temporal.
It is not separated from the earth or from nature. It, as well as the entire life of the human being, is all on the surface. This standard definition situates time in the chronological or narrative domains, and spatial marking, as it has been known since the time of Aristotle, is crucial to this understanding of temporal flow seconds of the clock, tree-rings, pendulums, the sun and stars, actions — all serve as indicators. It comprises a thought experiment which posits that Achilles can never overtake the slow tortoise once he has allowed it a head start because when- ever the speedy warrior reaches a point where the tortoise has been, he still has farther to go because his contender has moved on slightly.
This infinite spatial progression means that it is impossible for the race to end in time: temporal eter- nity emerges from this spatial infinity. According to Henri-Louis Bergson,34 this paradox is a mere illu- sion because Zeno of Elea represents time by spatial means; that is, time and movement coincide with the line that underlines them — the path of Achilles and the tortoise.
The OED definitions thus fall into a trap by apply- ing spatial markers to represent time. They seem to ignore the fact that the essence of time — duration — lies beyond the stasis of space. The critic dedi- cates three chapters to Bergson in his two-volume cinema study and puts forward the concept of aberrant movement, as illustrated in the cinema of time-image.
While movement-image comprises the subor- dination of time to movement in space, time-image is liberated from space by the deconstruction of the spatial coordinates. The resulting disembodied view of the world lacks an acting subject. However, this resolute attempt to liberate time from the dictatorship of space on the cinematic screen is still infiltrated by spatial categories. Spaces and Times Space and time, once withdrawn from the theoretical domain and put into the realm of cinematic praxis, cease to be conceived of as forming a homogenous entity and evolve into discontinuous spatio- temporal threads.
Diverse takes, made at different times, are woven together by film-makers to create what appears to be a continuous cinematic image. Chained people watching shadows on the wall in the allegory of the Cave — that is, immobile viewers in a movie theatre — offer a powerful metaphor for how reality manifests itself in a ghostly fashion. The argument posits that the act of dreaming functions as evidence that the senses we trust to distinguish reality from illusion deceive us from time to time. A dream, a phantasy or an illusion of the senses is an experience that fails to fit into the unitary spatio-temporal scheme.
Bradley wonders: why should we take time as one succession and not as a multitude of series? In support of this challenge, he draws attention to the relation between events in dreams and those in fic- tional stories. In these imaginary narratives, events are indisputably temporal entities, since they are temporally related to other events in the same imaginary narratives. Yet these events cannot be located in the framework of objective historical time.
In addition, the tem- poral span of a fictional story or dream is usually much greater than its actual duration, and events are not always arranged in a linear manner — memories from childhood or flashbacks can easily inter- fuse with current events.
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Bradley underlines differences between physical objective, vast and systematic and experiential subjective, minute and fragmented space and time. Unlike these philosophers, Tarkovsky does not represent vari- ous spaces and times through coherent argument, but rather enacts relationships between them on the cinema screen.
Thus the viewer experiences the argument. The director displaces topo- graphical coordinates and imposes temporal leaps: he enters the cin- ematic labyrinth at times by means of a spatial aberration and at times through a temporal anomaly.
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These displacements and leaps create narrative digressions, which consequently disorientate the viewer. Space undergoes a conceptual modification while time emerges as a renewed phenom- enon with great force. The result is a consistent re-enactment of non-linear relationships between various spatio- temporal frameworks. Both space and time always already contain spatio- temporal multiplicity, and the director simply amplifies this quality.
The absence of a linear continuum is one of the key features of the seven films that will be discussed in the present book. Their quests, which are usually spiritual in nature, are not connected with a place governed by a single temporal pattern.
The Cinema of Tarkovsky
The Tarkovskian soundtrack, or rather soundscape, does not transparently cue emotions or moods, but adds to spatio- temporal disorientation. The director employs cinematographic means to deliver a commentary on the human condition, which for him constitutes an experience of reality as a subjective layering of inextricable snippets of various times and spaces. Hunter- Blair, London, , p. Brown, Evanston, IL, , p. Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema, transl. Hunter- Blair, Austin, , p. Tarkovsky, Time Within Time, p.
Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time, pp. Volume 1, transl. Gray, Berkeley, CA, , p. Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time, p. Tarkovskii, Uroki rezhissury, Moscow, , p. For instance, Maiia Turovskaia considers the category of time as a gate- way to the cinema of Tarkovsky M.
Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, transl. Tomlinson and R.
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Galeta, London, , p. Gianvito ed. Deleuze, Cinema 2, pp. It should be noted that the notion of juncture is crucial to Eisenstein — it is a gateway to his theory of montage see S. Eisenstein: Selected Works: Volume 1, Writings, —34, ed. Taylor, London, , pp. Miskowiec, Diacritics, vol. Deleuze also refers to the story to illustrate the problem of future con- tingents G.
Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, transl. Conley, London, , p. Rohmer, The Taste for Beauty, transl. Volk, Cambridge, , p. Tarkovskii, Martirolog. Dnevniki —, Florence, , p. In this sense, the phenomenon of slow motion can be defined as a certain type of long take where the conventional flow of time is manipulated. Deleuze, Cinema 2, p. Visible Man and The Spirit of Film, transl. Livingstone, New York, , pp.
Aumont, A. Bergala, M. Marie and M. Vernet, Aesthetics of Film, transl. Neupert, Austin, TX, , pp. Jephcott, Cambridge, MA, , p. The beam of light emerges as a gradually growing cone and makes visible various particles in the air. The resulting three-dimensional light sculpture elevates cinematic experience to a different plane where real space and time, not their illusions, play the key role. Volume 1, p. Emerson and M.
Holquist, Austin, TX, , p. The time-thrust can be easily overlooked because they are often unperceivable optical and sound situations, with no commensurable links to each other and no easily inferable connections to conventional referents. In Mirror , the act of remembering alternates between two worlds, one actual and the other virtual, and sometimes, memory exist simultaneously in both worlds. The memory-scape bifurcates into actual and virtual situations that parallel each other within a temporal quandary.
Mirror extracts images from thought-memories and surrounds them in a world of time. In short, the time-image has an image-structure, a coalescence of the actual and the virtual. Donato Totaro explains that the physicality relates to matter as an extension of space and to the movement-image , while the mentality is tied into memory as a duration of thought and the time-image.
The movement-image is a spatialized cinema, as seen in Hollywood genre films, where time is measured by movement and determined by action. Totaro writes that:. If one compares film with music, cinema stands out as giving time visible, real form.
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A piece of music can be played in different ways where musical time is a condition of certain causes and effects set out in a given order, carrying abstract and philosophical sensibilities — music records time inwardly. But film is able to record time outwardly with visible signs, recognizable to the senses — so time becomes the very foundation of cinema, as sound is in music, color in painting, character in drama.
Rhythm is not the metrical sequences of the shots but the time-thrust within the frames.
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Cutting does not engender, or recreate, a new quality; but it brings out a quality already inherent in the frame that it joins. Editing represents intervals of time dealing with the diversity of life perceived. Rhythm exists in the life of the object visibly recorded in the frame while the temporal movement is conveyed by the flow of the life-process in the shot. It is through this time-rhythm that the director reveals his individuality and stylistic marks.
It is the distortion of time that gives it rhythmical expression. It exposes the direct figure of time by the deliberate and careful joining of shots of uneven time-pressure. The process of joining segments of unequal time-value breaks the time-rhythm. As Totaro notes:. Matching shots of differing rhythms can be done without destroying this organicprocess if it grows out of an inner necessity. An example is the car journey sequence in Solaris. Through camera movement, sound and consistent forward direction the shots in this sequence share the same rhythm.
The montage heightens to a frenzied single-frame fusion of overlapping highways, lights, skyscrapers and cars. The image is quiet, peaceful and serene. The time-pressure in this shot is opposite from that in the previous shots. His editing style is dictated by the rhythmic pressures in the segments of film. His authorial signature comes from his editing style and is the mark of his attitudes to the conception of cinema and philosophy of life. His art films are formed by organic processes and are living organisms with their own circulatory system time flow which must not be brought to stasis.
It is marked by the denunciation of the excesses of Stalinism and the abolishment of the cult of personality Stalin. The second stage occurs between and when Leonid Brezhnev [ — ] becomes the general secretary of the communist party, and a more conservative, party-centered government is set up as the hallmark of this regime. In , the Union of Filmmakers is formed to protect filmmakers but it also becomes a form of control on the Soviet filmmakers because censorship is still in effect and applied to all the Soviet film industry, especially when Brezhnev is the general secretary.
Experimental or art films are controlled and released only in limited circuits determined by the state. In the Spring of , the USSR invades Czechoslovakia and Prague falls under the control of the Soviet Union; and at the same time, a dissident movement begins in the USSR and the deportations of dissident trouble makers becomes policy. From to , Mikhail Gorbachev takes power in the Soviet Union, marking the beginning of the final stages of the Soviet government. He opens up his country to the European economy and culture by introducing the Perestroika and Glasnost politics, effectively ending state control politics over Soviet industry and economy.
It also marks the end of the state controlled film industry, and the withdrawal of government subsidies provokes a crisis in the Soviet cinema because of the lack of national circuits for the production and distribution of film; as a result, censorship is terminated with an order for the re-release of films banned during the previous years. Thus, distribution of Hollywood films in the national film market is allowed and international co-productions are initiated, especially with Europe. After a military coup in marking the end of the Soviet Union , Boris Yeltsin governs Russia until During his time in office, the Russian economy is in a continuous state of crisis.
Moreover, many anti-Russian political movements spring up within former Soviet states which, seek their own independence for instance, the war for independence in Chechnya. He sets up a conservative government but still remains open to the benefits of the Western economy, allowing collateral political cooperation. Montage was at the heart of such a structure. Furthermore since Eisenstein began his career in the Soviet theater where spectacle and attraction were a dominant part of the show, Soviet montage techniques are based on the montage of attractions, and its rhythm is developed as a sequence of images progressing through time.
Its editing process can be characterized as an intellectual and conceptual juxtaposition of images, objects and concepts capable of achieving certain emotional and intellectual effects. Therefore, Eisensteinian editing is a montage of attraction between shots, and elements in the shots juxtapose concepts, allowing the viewer to produce intellectual connections and meaning.
Thus, the montage of attraction produces an explosion of meaning that arouses the viewer, and its purpose is to suggest specific ideas and concepts; and so, the filmmaker creates a new perception of social reality. In October , Nikita Khrushchev was removed from office by a conspiracy among his deputies, and Leonid Brezhnev placed in as the secretary of the Central Committee and Alexei N. Kosygin as the chairman of the Council of Ministers. There followed a period of uncertainty and indecision for the arts that ended abruptly with the Warsaw pact occupation of Czechoslovakia in August and a renewed domestic campaign against the liberation of Soviet culture in Like the legends of Tristan and Isolde and Romeo and Juliet, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors offers a relatively familiar and uncomplicated tale of undying love that has variants in cultures all over the world; with this film Paradjanov created a vision of human experience that was considered extremely radical in its subversion of all authority.
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors violates every narrative code and representational system known to cinema, and it seems intent upon deconstructing the very process of representation itself by interrogating the whole set of historically evolved assumptions about the nature of cinematic space and the relationship between spectator and the screen.
The point of these techniques is not to confuse the spectator but to prevent the kind of comfortable, familiar, and logically continuous representational space associated with traditional narrative form. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors exists most fully not in the realm of narrative but in the world of myth and the unconscious. It is a psychological film embedded deep in Freudian and Jungian imagery, making the Pavlovian tactics of Eisensteinian montage look primitive.
Psychologically, in order to tell a tale that operates at the level of myth, and not of narrative, the story becomes an archetype of life itself, where youth passes from innocence to experience to solitude and death in a recurring, eternal cycle. In form, this film approaches the avant-garde in its surreal rendition of the horrors of war. The title character is a historical figure, the Russian Orthodox monk who brought the art of religious icon painting to its zenith in the 15th century. It was his last film, as he died of lung cancer in Paris in December He proposes the dominant factor of the film image as being essentially rhythm.
Tarkovsky writes that it is impossible to imagine any cinematic work with no temporal undercurrents winding through the shots, but one can conceive of a film with no actors, music, decor or even editing.