Film temporality - a new form of experience? Reflections on Tarkovsky’s assertions on time


Maria do Rosário Lupi Bello

Department of Humanities, Universidade Aberta de Portugal, Palácio Ceia, Rua da Escola Politécnica 141, 1269-001 Lisboa, Portugal


Euresis Journal, volume 7 (2014), pages 87-100

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s opinion, the birth of cinema was not merely the beginning of a new form of artistic expression, but it also brought the invention of a new aesthetic principle. In fact, for the first time in human history, time could be kept and preserved inside a "metal box", it could be dealt with and contemplated as though it did not vanish. Time ahad become a "material" substance; it had acquired physical traits; it had assumed "the form of fact". Cinema establishes a very specific and intimate relationship with reality. Panofsky stressed that the medium of movies is "physical reality as such" and Bazin stated that "cinema is committed to communicate only by way of what is real." Following an identical line of thought, Pasolini underlined that cinema expresses reality through reality itself, and in this sense, it is not a language, it is the language of reality, reality being in itself temporal and dynamic. For Tarkovsky, cinema allows a direct, emotional, sensuous perception of the work of the artist (contrarily to literature, which can only be received through symbols and concepts, thus depending always on the reader’s selection and laws of his own imagination). Tarkovsky maintained that "cinema uses the materials given by nature itself, by the passage of time, manifested within space, that we observe about us and in which we live", but in his opinion time is above all a state, the "condition for the existence of our ’I’ ", "the flame in which there lives the salamander of the human soul." In this essay I intend to address the question of temporality in movies by constrasting Tarkovsky’s notions with the thining of St. Augustine and other authors. Whilst placing an emphasis on three basic dimensions of the cinema: the presentness, the narrativity and the iconicity of film, I will draw upon examples which hopefully throw some light on the cultural implication of this phenomenon. One of my principal aims will be to discuss whether film actually responds with particular competence to a specific need of modern man, afflicted by what the Russian filmmaker calls moden man’s "time deficiency."