Walking Through Tarkovsky: Doorways in the Director’s Films

Progressions physical, emotional, and intellectual.

Progressions physical, emotional, and intellectual.

Last week we brought you a video compilation from editor Daniel McIlwraith about famed Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky’s repeated use of the mirror as a visual metaphor for self-reflection. The reflective surface is perhaps Tarkovsky’s most recurring motif, but running a close second is the director’s use of doorways to represent the emotional and intellectual journeys of his characters, both those journeys that progress and those that wander their respective realms lost, looking for a way forward, or at least out.

Doorways figure especially into Tarkovsky’s films about exploration, mainly Stalker with its Zone, sub-Zones, and the many doors and passageways within, and Solaris with its labyrinthine space station. In these instances doors also serve a quite literal function, but their primary purpose is to denote the intangible. In Stalker specifically, the doorways get gradually more organic, going from metal to wood and stone, and they also degrade, sharp lines and angles softening and crumbling. They also get larger, to an extent, growing from small openings and narrow passages to wider throughways. This, of course, is a metaphorical parallel to the state of the men making this journey and the erosion of their expectations.

In McIlwraith’s second Tarkovsky video, doorways from all the director’s films have been edited together to illustrate their many connotations. Like McIlwraith’s last video, it’s a stark reminder of Tarkovsky’s poetic approach to film, one that makes more use of images than it does words.

H. Perry Horton: Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist