Kurosawa: "Tarkovsky Was a Real Poet"
KUROSAWA Akira interviewed by MAYUZUMI Tetsuro, Editor of the Asahi Newspaper.
Originally published in The Asahi Shimbun Newspaper on April 15, 1987.
Translated from Japanese for Nostalghia.com by SATO Kimitoshi, Japan.
The article appears here for the first time in English.
"I miss him dearly. He died at the age of 54. He died too
young...," says Mr. Akira Kurosawa. Soviet film director Andrei Tarkovsky
died on the eve of 1986. Kurosawa met Andrei Tarkovsky
"He always looked at me with his adoring bright eyes. I will never
forget the look in his amicable eyes. Both of us agreed on many
things about life and film. But we are so different in disposition
that our outputs are quite opposite in character. He is a poet, I am
The Sacrifice is Tarkovsky's "testament," as a film dealing with the
desperate situation that the potential of nuclear war drives humanity
into. The prospect of humanity in the film is so hopeless that the end credit
seems to us the only hope left to human race:
Dedicated to my son — with hope and conviction.
Those who are familiar with Kurosawa's films will recall A Record of
a Living Being. It describes how a man who fears the atomic bomb
reaches the conclusion that the safest place on earth is Brazil, and
he tries to make his entire family emigrate to Brazil. He eventually
causes a great tumult, and his family deprives him of his human
rights, forcing him into an asylum. A tragic story, indeed.
Says Kurosawa, "I hate to mention my own film, but A Record deals
with the same theme that The Sacrifice deals with."
"We talked with each other and agreed that a movie should not attempt
to explain anything. Cinema is not a suitable medium for explanation.
Those who view it must be left free to sense its content. It should
be open to a variety of interpretations. However, Tarkovsky
absolutely never explains, he gives no explanation at all. His
thoroughness is incredible."
But in The Sacrifice it was somewhat different. Just as Kurosawa lets
us know the real issues at the beginning, so Tarkovsky made the main
character speak out his opinion in a monologue in which he curses our
age, in which civilization has grown increasingly materialistic.
After shooting Ivan's Childhood (1962), Solaris (1972), Mirror (1975),
and Nostalghia (1983), "the poet of imagery" uttered finally what he had to
say. At the very last moment, one might say.
"His unusual sensitivity is both overwhelming and astounding. It
almost reaches a pathological intensity. Probably there is no equal
among film directors alive now. For instance we often see water in
his films, which is portrayed in a manifold variety of expressiveness.
Such is the case in The Sacrifice; one sky-reflecting pool and one
without sky reflection. The camera shot the images under strict
guidance from the director, whose aim was extraordinarily hard to
We find the scene where the wind blows at the beginning, and Kurosawa
points out how difficult it is to fix the feel of the wind on film.
"You may think it is easy, but in truth it is almost impossible to catch
the image and the feel of the scene on film. Japanese directors shoot
nature almost absent-mindedly. There is a popular belief that the
Japanese are good at filming nature, but it is not true — they are no
good at all! Early films by Mikio Naruse are somewhat distinguished
in this respect, although he may not have been aware of it...
Most Japanese film directors are not sensitive to nature, really, are
I recall the scene of two men and a woman in the bush in Rashomon.
The by now legendary image of a dazzling summer sunlight showering from among
the trees above, while they are fighting on the ground. When I
mentioned the beautiful achievement of his "light gradation," Kurosawa
denies it. "That was actually not an unqualified success."
"We failed to succeed in expressing the subtlety of nature, such as
the heat inherent in the foliage. We are praised for that scene from
quarters from overseas, however..."
(Kurosawa highly values Nikita Mihalkov, his Unfinished Play and
From the Life of Obromov.)
And he goes on to say: "Of course the careful treatment of natural
phenomena involves certain technical problems. But I think their
successful accomplishment is rooted in the view of nature intrinsic to the
"If you see nature with an insightful delicacy, it follows that you
treat humanity with the same kind of delicacy. In contrast, Hollywood
counterparts are, on the whole, rough and careless."
"Therefore I believe we have to appreciate our sensitivity to nature
And his final words:
"I love all of Tarkovsky's films. I love his personality and all
his works. Every cut from his films is a marvelous image in itself. But the
finished image is nothing more than the imperfect accomplishment of
his idea. His ideas are only realized in part. And he had to make do
These words are supported by Kurosawa's own life-long experiences, and we
may sense in them the eternal struggle of a Creator in tackling his or her craft.