Tarkovsky's films are characterised by metaphysical themes, extremely long takes, and memorable images of exceptional beauty. Recurring motifs are dreams, memory, childhood, running water accompanied by fire, rain indoors, reflections, levitation, and characters re-appearing in the foreground of long panning movements of the camera. He once said, “Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema.”
Tarkovsky included levitation scenes into several of his films, most notably Solaris. To him these scenes possess great power and are used for their photogenic value and magical inexplicability.
Water, clouds, and reflections were used by him for its surreal beauty and photogenic value, as well as its symbolism, such as waves or the form of brooks or running water.
Bells and candles are also frequent symbols. These are symbols of film, sight and sound, and Tarkovsky's film frequently has themes of self reflection.
Tarkovsky developed a theory of cinema that he called "sculpting in time". By this he meant that the unique characteristic of cinema as a medium was to take our experience of time and alter it. Unedited movie footage transcribes time in real time. By using long takes and few cuts in his films, he aimed to give the viewers a sense of time passing, time lost, and the relationship of one moment in time to another.
Ingmar Bergman on Tarkovsky:
My discovery of Tarkovsky's first film was like a miracle.
Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease.
I felt encouraged and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how.
Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.
The Killers (Ubitsi) (short,1958)
Extract (Kontsentrat) (short, 1958)
There Will Be No Leave Today (Segodnya uvolneniya ne budet) (short,1959)
The Steamroller and the Violin (Katok i skripka) (short, 1960) aka The Skating Rink and the Violin
Ivan's Childhood (Ivanovno detstvo) (1962)
aka The Childhood of Ivan, My Name is Ivan, The Youngest Spy
Andrei Rublev (1966 rel.1971) aka Andrei Rublyov, The Passion of Andrei
Mirror (Zerkalo) (1974)
Tempo di viaggio (1983) TV documentary
Nostalgia (Nostalghia) (1983)
The Sacrifice (Offret) (1986)