10 films that influenced the life and career of Taras Tkachenko

Taras Tkachenko’s drama film The Nest of the Turtledove is still showing in cinemas across Ukraine. At this year’s Odessa International Film Festival it was awarded the Golden Duke for the Best Ukrainian feature film. In 2011 a similar award was given to Tkachenko’s short love story Flea Waltz (Dog Waltz). Last year’s mystery TV series Nikonov and Co., co-directed by Tkachenko, was also very popular with the audience. And in October he was appointed the head of the Ukrainian Association of Cinematographers.

Listing ten films, which had a strong influence on his life and career, Tkachenko noted that personally for him the main emphasis in any film should be on its metaphorical and philosophical aspects, as well as humanity.

Commissar (1967) by Aleksandr Askoldov

What’s impressive about this film is how its creators, in spite of being under ideological pressure, managed to tell a humane and candid story. From a psychological point view this film is quite edgy. It is incredibly accurate in portraying the inner strength of the protagonist’s character. Besides, it’s simply an ABC guide on composition, on working with sound and actors.

 

Stone Cross (1968) by Leonid Osyka

Ukrainian cinema is metaphorical in its nature. And this film is an incredible demonstration of that. I got very emotional when watching the farewell scene, and to this day I haven’t figured out entirely how it was shot. It’s a gold standard of scene resolution. You get an absolute sense that instead of watching a staged episode on screen, you are living through an episode of real life, which flows on its own accord. Besides, the story is told in a novel-like manner. I’m also really curious about an approach that combines several different storylines in one film.

 

Babel (2006) by Alejandro González Iñárritu

This film uses the same principle of incorporating several short novels into one story, with each of them being a whole metaphor. Three stories in this film are linked. Not through a character or a theme, though. The main uniting element of the film is a philosophical idea. This principle of building a story in a film really impressed me at the time. For me personally, this film is the most significant one in Iñárritu’s filmmaking career.

 

Once Upon a Time in America (1983) by Sergio Leone

This film is also an ABC guide on how to work with extras, supporting cast and actors, how to think up the story and scenes, and what the fusion of psychology and metaphorical content is. Speaking of working with actors, it was this film I had been learning from. The absolute feeling you get while watching this movie is that actors are not just playing but literally living their parts.

I first watched this film by accident. I simply turned on the TV, and the film was on. And I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the screen right until the closing credits.

 

Andrei Rublev (1966) by Andrei Tarkovsky

Firstly, I was curious how two strong artistic personalities like Tarkovsky and Konchalovsky managed to make such a complicated film together. I was curious to learn about their joint creative process and what it was like. Secondly, this film is a wonderful example of life of an artist and how to live in accordance with your calling. I re-watch Andrei Rublev from time to time, and every time I do that, I check whether I am in touch with my own creative and personal self.

I’ve seen many Tarkovky’s films and love his works very much, yet I can’t say I was learning from his art.

 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) by Miloš Forman

I teach at Kyiv National Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and Television University, and I simply badgered my students with this film. I first watched it in the 1990s, when the freedom issue was only beginning to ripple through the oppressive Soviet system. I was at school at the time and saw that film on TV late at night. But one particular episode sunk deep into my memory. It was when Randle McMurphy, known as Chief, escapes through a smashed window. During that scene I literally wanted to scream.

This film simply “tore me into pieces”. At that point I experienced the sharpest sense of inner freedom. In other words this film made me the person I am today. It deeply affected my inner self.

 

Hungry for Oxygen (1991) by Andrei Donchik

At the time this film “sobered me up” and showed that cinema could be different. In the early 1990s the film was perceived as anti-cinema. Hungry for Oxygen is built upon disharmonic, battered, butchered images. Some episodes of the film I remember to the tiniest detail.

It’s like with music, for instance, where euphony and cacophony are equally essential. And if all the movies I’ve mentioned till now are euphonic, Donchik’s Hungry for Oxygen is cacophonic. It’s the finest example of how to break harmony.

 

The Shining (1980) by Stanley Kubrick

This kind of art hits the viewer’s heart by evading their mind. This film explains what emotions are, and does it in a very comprehensive way. It’s not so much a horror film as a film of substance. It taught me how put and keep the viewer in a certain emotional state right until the closing credits.

 

Harem (1985) by Arthur Joffé

It’s an unusual film that resembles a dream. When watching it, one gets an impression they are falling out of reality. It lacks a harmonious story structure in the conventional sense of the word. This film is like a fragment of one’s visionary dream.

The lesson this film taught me is that we don’t necessarily have to narrate a story cohesively. Quite to the contrary – we need to tear a narration into separate parts and then collect the story from unfinished pieces, which work as a broken line. In this way a film creator becomes more of a provocateur than a narrator.

 

The Killing Fields (1984) by Roland Joffé

Needless to say, art must talk about universal issues. However, its language must be modern. Moreover, art and the viewer must exist in the same reality, without breaking off into some imaginary world. This very film taught me about modern art and what it is, how essential in cinema a hot-button theme is, and how important it is not to make it speculative.

It’s this balance of the modern and non-speculative that I’m trying to achieve when making my own films.