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“The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky”

Yes, Andrei Tarkovsky made science-fiction films, but he was hardly the Soviet Union’s equivalent of George Lucas. The quests depicted in his work are deeply personal, not cribbed from pop-psychology texts, and were shaped by the constraints of working with (and against) official censors. Indeed, both Solaris (pictured, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m., Feb. 14 at 2 p.m., Feb. 15 at 8:30 p.m.) and Stalker (Feb. 27 at 8:15 p.m., Feb. 28 at 2 p.m.) can be seen as parables of life under Communism; the latter’s rusted-out futurism is bleaker and grimier than such dystopian Hollywood films as Alien and Blade Runner. After Tarkovsky defected to the West, his work turned even more inward, although the two films he made before his death (of lung cancer in 1986) were not oblivious of his former homeland: The hauntingly beautiful (if somewhat opaque) Nostalghia finds a homesick Russian searching for secular salvation in Italy (Feb. 21 & 25 at 8:15 p.m.), while The Sacrifice somberly places the burden of saving the world from nuclear apocalypse on a single family living in a remote site on the Swedish coast (Feb. 20 at 8:15 p.m., Feb. 21 at 3:45 p.m.). The series includes the only Tarkovsky film that pleased the censors, My Name Is Ivan, (Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 6 at 8 p.m.) as well as two that didn’t amuse them at all: Andrei Rublev (Feb. 7 at 8 p.m., Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m.) and The Mirror (Feb. 10 & 11 at 8 p.m.). Also featured is the 1988 Swedish documentary, Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (Feb. 24 at 8:15 p.m., Feb. 28 at 6:45 p.m.), made while the director was filming The Sacrifice. At the Kennedy Center’s American Film Institute Theater. $6.50. (202) 785-4600. (Mark Jenkins)