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Movie Poster of the Week: “Ivan’s Childhood” and the films of Andrei Tarkovsky

On the occasion of what would have been Andrei Tarkovsky’s 80th birthday, Adrian Curry looks back on the best posters for his films.

Andrei Tarkovsky would have turned 80 years old on Wednesday and the Tumblr and Twitterverses were buzzing with tributes to the Russian grand master. My favorite was the concise observation by one Raúl Pedraz [Update: actually a quote from Chris Marker’s One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich] that Tarkovsky was the only filmmaker whose entire work lies between two children and two trees.

It’s a couple of days late but I wanted to offer my own tribute to one of my very favorite filmmakers (Mirror being the film that I always hold up as my favorite film of all time). It is very hard to find Tarkovsky posters that have not been seen before so I was happy to stumble upon this rare East German poster for Tarkovsky’s first feature, Ivan’s Childhood, featuring, happily, a boy and a tree.

[Update: Thanks to Criterion I just discovered that, by happy coincidence, Ivan’s Childhood had its world premiere in Moscow exactly 50 years ago today!]

Tarkovsky is one filmmaker for whom I’d gladly have posters that simply feature gorgeous images from his film (of which there are an unlimited supply) but there are so many terrific illustrated posters that I thought I’d just feature my favorite for each film here, in chronological order.

I was surprised to even find a poster for Tarkovsky’s 1961 45-minute diploma film The Steamroller and the Violin. This rather crude but likeable Polish poster (its title translates as “Little Dreamer”) is by Jerzy Haas.

The stunning Czech poster for Andrei Rublev (1966) is by Karel Teissig (1925-2000):

Of all of Tarkovsky’s films, Solaris (1972) has inspired the best poster design. I really could not choose between (clockwise from top left) the Polish (by Andrzej Bertrandt), Italian (by Renato Casaro), Czech and French designs. So I present them all.

The Polish poster for Mirror (1974)  is the one I’m least sure of. It certainly doesn’t do my favorite film of all time justice and I doubt I’d even recognize it as a poster for Mirror at first glance, but sadly there isn’t much competition, most of the other posters being rather slapdash photo montages. And it’s a striking illustration, by Marek Ploza-Dolinski , in its own right.

One of the best known of all Tarkovsky posters is the French illustration for Stalker (1979) by the great Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon (1934-2005). I’m also partial to the much starker Russian poster, and the Folon design almost makes Stalker look a little cute, but it has the requisite magic and mystery.

The dramatic French grande for Nostalghia (1983) gives Tarkovsky a very 80s flair with its script title treatment.

And finally, though I probably should have ended this piece with one of the many posters for The Sacrifice (1986) that simply feature Tarkovsky’s final image of the tree and the boy, I have to go with the superb Russian illustration (almost an ideogram of the film) by Igor Maistrovsky.

Thanks to Posteritati for the Sacrifice poster (which they have for sale along with a number of these and other Tarkovsky posters). And if you have favorite Tarkovsky posters that I didn’t include here, please tell me about them in the comments below. The indispensable Tarkovsky website has a very comprehensive collection of posters, though unfortunately not in very high quality scans.

Adrian, thank you so much for your column! I have to say I don’t agree that there are „so many great posters” for A.T.’s films, but maybe his films are difficult to communicate through poster design? Anyway, I wanted to point you to three posters that I find interesting: a polish one for MIRROR which is beautiful in but not really on the spot (don’t know the designer) the other one a recent STALKER variation by Sam Smith and this great strange ANDREI RUBLEV poster (my favorite of Tarkovski’s films) – no idea about who designed it Keep up the good work! Christoph
Hi Christophe, Thanks for your feedback! The Polish poster you link to is by the great Stasys Eidrigevicius (b. 1949) and is apparently for a retrospective of Tarkovsky films. He did a similar poster for Nostalghia. I love his style, and hope to do a feature on his work soon, but the posters seem much more about his art than about Tarkovsky’s films, from which they seem almost completely divorced. I know and love Sam Smith’s poster, which I featured on Movie Poster of the Day a while back, but I was trying to include more original posters than recent fan/retro posters. And, finally, that Andrei Rublev poster is by Andrzej Klimowski, another great Polish designer. I like it, but it has a whiff of Monty Python to me! But I really appreciate all the links. Adrian
These old movie posters I was feeling better, not now use computers to design and print. Because the printer is missing a little taste of life.
I believe that “concise observation” was made first by Chris Marker at the very end of his Tarkovsky doc, One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich. Check it out.
Thanks JLB. You’re right (and Raúl Pedraz did let me know also). I’ll update the post.
Christophe, I think actually you were right about the Stasys poster. On closer inspection it does seem to be for Mirror and not for a retrospective. Watch this space for a Stasys post in the near future.
Thanks Adrian! Abundant proof here that Tarka the auteur is not best served with a side order of magic mushrooms.
Adrian, Great stuff. Never seen the EG poster before. You do need to add the original Russian SOLARIS poster tho which is truly amazing and incredibly rare. sam sarowitz posteritati
Re which movie had the best posters, I have to disagree. I think the greatest Tarkovsky posters were for Andrei Rublev, with the one you chose being the best. I don't find the Solaris posters that compelling. I would suggest that the real reason that you couldn't choose between the four is that none of them are that great. With respect to the Stalker poster, I like it enough that I bought a copy, but it has nothing to do with the film. It looks like a classic case of a poster designed by an artist who did not see the film.

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