Still from archival segment of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Zerkalo.
Hugo: Well…that’s wonderful, Niranjan, now you do give us the chance to agree with you (or otherwise), and I’m pleased to fully embrace what you write about the nature and purpose of art in your Second and Third Criteria, and respect your renewed heartfelt claim for Tarkovsky. However I’d have to question a lot of what you write in the First Criteria, starting with your new sweeping statement (much harder to forgive) that all art mediums were decadent by the end of the 19th century.
So this is how Hugo Moss’ begins his reply to my justification for my claim that Andrei Tarkovsky was the greatest artist of the 20th Century, in any medium…. in Tarkovsky Monument and Tarkovsky Monument 2 I had cited and expanded on Ingmar Bergman’s statement that Andrei Tarkovsky was the greatest auteur in the film medium, “Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. I felt encouraged and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream”. I had taken Bergman’s judgment on Tarkovsky as the basis of my own and estimation of him in the world of film and augmented it with the controversial premise that film was the medium of the century and that therefore, and by definition Tarkovsky was well … the Greatest of all his contemporaries! Here is an extract from Hugos’s very seriously considered reply to my sweeping but, I believe, still defensible thesis! Hugo continues …
Hugo: Even if I accept your unusual use of the word “decadent”, you’re still asking me to consider as “redolent” the work of folk who were producing some pretty extraordinary and groundbreaking stuff (as defined by your Second and Third Criteria), well into the 20th century, using several means of expression other than film. Then your sweep continues with an attempt at laying down the law: “Any artist not practicing his art in the film medium misses (…) the right to be considered the greatest artist of this time.” You’re certainly tidying up the floor nicely here, but it seems to me that in doing so your broom inadvertently knocks over quite a lot of important other stuff, no?
Hugo is right, indeed, I am tidying up, but in my imagination and intent, it is with a benign broom … one that separates in order to aggrandize Tarkovsky without besmirching the great masters of the other, well … I stand by it … ‘redolent’ arts …. Yes, while I am willing to withdraw my apparently failed attempt at using ‘decadent’ in an objective rather than in a pejorative manner, I stand by my use of ‘redolent’ to characterize the maturity of the other arts vis a vis film in the 20th Century…. (More on this in Tarkovsky Monument 4)
Hugo: Although I think I see what you’re getting at, I agree neither with the claim itself nor with the attempt at establishing such a litmus test for greatness. Academia spends a lot of its time in this sort of activity, but inevitably ends up making extraordinary over-simplifications about this very great, beautiful and complex world. What is being achieved by heaving Tarkovsky (or anyone else) onto a pedestal based on such a narrow idea? It seems to be to be a supremely Ahrimanic exercise, whereas I feel we artists should be seeking to keep things flowing. I love hearing/reading about your passion for Tarkovsky and others without having to place them on anything or even anywhere in particular. They continue to move through time as we all do. Your love for and the inspiration you’ve gained from artists like Tarkovsky are far more important to me than anything Mount Olympus can provide. No, let us leave these attempts at fixing things in stone to others and keep the flow going.
Again, Hugo is right, but like the good Stalker that he is, it is my dear friend who set the trap that led me deeper into the mire … by asking for the justification that I had instinctively eschewed in my first post on Tarkovsky … Indeed, while my idolatry of Tarkovsky’s greatness was Mazdan in intent, Ahriman may have been lurking within – hyperbole limits movement, and can not be elaborated upon without begetting more inertia! I acknowledged this to Hugo on Messenger thus “Statements or comparisons of the greatness of others are not useful … other than as subjective symbols of the self … perhaps!”
Hugo: Perhaps! and I perfectly empathize with the love/inspiration which fuels them.