Andrei Tarkovsky: Art, Man, and the Meaning of Life

“Art has always been a weapon in the struggle of man against matter,
threatening to swallow his spirit…”



“Man is interesting to me for his willingness to serve something higher than oneself, and even for his inability to perceive the ordinary and the philistine moral life.  I’m interested in man who realizes that the meaning of existence is primarily in the fight against evil, which is within us, in order to rise at least a step higher in the spiritual sense throughout life. For, alas, the only alternative is opposed to the path of spiritual perfection – the path of spiritual degradation, to which the ordinary existence and the process of adaptability to this life so disposes!

The essential purpose of man is to cognize truth through the search of spirituality.

By spirituality, I mean, first of all, a person’s interest in what is called – the meaning of life. At least this is the first step or something. The person who asks himself this question can no longer fall below this level, he begins to evolve. He will ask himself this question “why are we living?”, “whence and where are we going?”, “what is the point of being on this planet for almost eighty years?” Put simply: a person who does not ask himself this question or has not yet asked this question is an unspiritual person. Both art and the artist, who are not interested in this problem, are not artists, because they are not realists. Because it cuts off one of the most important human problems that make a person human. And when we start to deal with these problems, then what arises is what we call true art.

The meaning of human existence, perhaps, consists precisely in the creation of works of art, in an artistic act, aimless and disinterested. In it perhaps manifests the fact that we are created in the likeness of God.  

The task of art is to express the idea of absolute freedom of the spiritual possibilities of man. In my opinion, art has always been a weapon in the struggle of man against matter, threatening to swallow his spirit… Art is prayer – that says it all.

It seems to me that the drama of our time lies in the fact that we are in a gap, in a conflict between the spiritual and the material. This is the reason that led to the current situation in our civilization – a dramatic and, I would say, tragic situation

The worst mistake we are making nowadays is that we want to teach others, but we ourselves, however, do not want to learn. Therefore it’s hard for me to talk about whether I can change anything with my art. To find a way to change the world, I have to change myself. I myself must become deeper and more spiritual. And only after that, maybe, I can be of benefit. And how can we count on any changes if we ourselves do not feel spiritually high enough?

Cinema has declined. Mainly because the film is divorced from the spiritual world of the so-called filmmakers. For them, cinema is a pleasant source of income and an opportunity to gain public weight. I would like to tell young directors that they should be responsible morally for the actions that they perform with their films. This is most important. And so that they prepare themselves for the idea that cinema is a very difficult, serious art. It requires a sacrifice of you. And you should belong to it, and not it should belong to you. Cinema uses you in life, and not vice versa. You need to serve, sacrifice yourself to art.


Only genius can save mankind nowadays – not a prophet, no! – but a genius who will formulate a new moral ideal. But where is this Messiah?

For man in order to live without distressing others, an ideal must exist. An ideal as a spiritual, moral concept of law. Moral is within man. Ethics is outside, and is invented as a substitute for moral. Where there is no moral, ethics reigns – impoverished and insignificant. Where moral is present, there is nothing ethics can do.

Strangely people live. As if they are masters of the situation – and do not understand that they are given a chance – to live it in such a way as to use the opportunity to be free. Everything in this life is terrible, except for our free will. When we merge with God, then we will not be able to use it, it will be taken from us.

Man is shaped by love. What does love mean? The ability to sacrifice, the ability to give oneself to other people. If you put obstacles to love, then man will be warped, will be tortured. And when you feel this love, and you see the limitations that mankind has created, obstacles before each other, then a person begins to suffer from it. As it happens when lovers are separated. Th one who has not known the experience of love, suffered the most crushing defeat on this Earth.

If we do not want to live like parasites on the body of society, eating the fruits of democracy, if we do not want to become conformists and idiots of consumption, then we have to give up a lot. And we must start with ourselves. We willingly blame others, society, friends, but not ourselves. Only when you know that you are ready to sacrifice yourself, you can achieve an impact on the general process of life, it will not work out in a different way. The price is, as a rule, our material well-being. You need to live as you say, so that the principles cease to be chatter and demagoguery.

The most important and the hardest thing is to have faith, for only the believer experiences fulfillment, realization. But sincerely believing is unusually difficult. There is nothing more difficult than passionately, sincerely and quietly believing alone with oneself.

I am firmly convinced that today we again stand close to the death of civilization, for we completely ignore the spiritual side of the historical process. We do not want to admit that our unforgivably sinful and hopeless materialism has inflicted infinitely great misfortunes on humanity.

I still love humanity, and to make people happy I’m ready to sacrifice myself in order to prove the existence of God! To serve humanity, to sacrifice yourself to God – that’s what I want!

The world is not completely exhausted by the material life, but there is a transcendental world that… has yet to be discovered. I believe in divine predestination. Faith is the only thing that can save man. This is my deepest conviction.”


~Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky was a Russian filmmaker, writer, and film theorist. He is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential directors in the history of Russian and world cinema.

Excerpts from Andrei Tarkovsky’s works.

©Excellence Reporter 2020

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