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The Tarkovsky Student Shorts
During his time at VGIK, Andrei Tarkovsky participated in the making of three student short-films.
This page is intended to give a brief outline of these student works.
The VGIK-produced shorts are as follows.
- Killers, 1956. Orig.: Ubijtsi
- Concentrate aka. Extract, 1958. Orig.: Konsentrat
- There Will be No Leave Today, 1959. Orig.: Segodnya uvolneniya ne budet
Andrei's VGIK diploma film, The Steamroller and the Violin, is not included in this list as
it was produced at and by Mosfilm Studios. This film (which is not a "short") is covered in
great detail elsewhere on this web site.
VGIK's shorts were produced by the VGIK's learning studio, a
somewhat separate entity, which is also the rights holder. It has two archives, one
black/white and one color archive. There was a fire in the color archive
in the 90's and a large amount of color negatives were destroyed. Fortunately Killers
and Concentrate were shot in black/white and may thus have survived in the
VGIK's black/white archive. However, this archive has been subject to
"house-cleaning," as it was too small to hold all the negatives;
it is located in the attic of VGIK's main building. The fate of the original
film elements for these two movies is thus at present somewhat unclear.
As for There Will Be No Leave Today, it
was co-produced with Russian television, which in the mid-80's decided to
transfer its large archive onto video. According to Alexander Gordon's memoirs,
the original materials have been destroyed.
The PAL video master of There Will Be No Leave Today has survived and is held
in the archives of the Russian State Television Company [Reference: Alex Asp].
|Extract aka. Concentrate
"The Concentrate is the only piece of work which refers to
Andrei's year in the taiga. This study short shows the chief
of an expedition waiting on a Yenisei shipping-pier
for a boat bearing the concentrates being brought back by a
geological party. The visual power of all Tarkovsky's work
is already tangible here. The weather, the waiting and the
anxiety are all evoked by means of light and sound. The
range of lighting effects is highly expressive: the
faces of those waiting for instance, alternately flicker in the beam
from the murky lighthouse on the bank
and are plunged into darkness. A pale hanging lamp sways
on the pier. Indoors, there is a circle of light around the
radio engineer from the lamp on his table. The beam from the
lighthouse snatches from the darkness disconnected details
of the scene. The monotonous tapping of the morse transmitter
is a background for the gusting of the wind and the crashing
of the waves, the threatening sounds of the coming storm.
Tarkovsky would always be indifferent to special, cinematic
music; but the music of life itself, its sounds and noises, always
served him faithfully and with truth. An undertext of alarm
is created on the tiny set of this "workplace" study."
Turovskaya: Cinema as Poetry, Faber and Faber, 1989, pp. 19-20.
"Tarkovsky became fascinated with the visual power of cinematography. His evolving talents can be glimpsed in The Concentrate, a short student exercise about a geologist anxiously awaiting his expedition samples to be returned by boat. Though shot on interior sets, the story takes place on an outdoor pier during a stormy night when the waves are crashing and the wind gusting. Unable to realistically recreate these weather effects, Tarkovsky, with help from his fellow students, cleverly suggested them through light and sound, adding a murky atmosphere and ominous mood in the process."
Facets.org Tarkovsky essay.
"[The movie] is really only a mood piece. Shots display the leader
of a scientific expedition waiting on the jetty for a boat which
will bring in a bundle of papers, including a vital 'correction'
to the expedition's calculations. The weather is stormy: the beams of
a lighthouse circle and disappear into the darkness; a lamp on
the table picks out the wireless in harsh relief. The atmosphere is
one of dense expectation and suspense (no music in the soundtrack).
Plainly the work makes reference to Tarkovsky's lonely experience with
the Kirghiz Gold Institute expedition (but, interestingly, it is the only
moment in Tarkovsky's oeuvre to do so explicitly)."
Reference: Le Fanu: The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky, The British Film Institute, 1987, pp. 17-18.
Note that the film is erroneously identified by Le Fanu as There Will Be No Leave Today
And after all of the above detailed information, it may come as a surprise to read