I have it in mind to write a long essay, or perhaps a short book, with the above title, or something close to it. I haven’t definitely decided on the structure or plan, but the idea of using the three virtues – faith, hope and love – appeals to me at the moment, with the following films and philosophers:
Stalker – Lev Shestov (Faith)
Rublev – Semyon Frank (Hope)
Mirror – Vasily Rozanov (Love)
By referring to the three “theological” virtues I risk being misunderstood. Let me be clear. In my view, Tarkovsky was not a dogmatic Christian, not someone for whom Christianity answered all questions and settled all accounts. He was greatly interested in the religions of the East. He read books by spiritual seekers and guides as diverse as Steiner, Gurdjieff and Castaneda. Therefore, I think it would be wrong, in this context, from among the Silver Age religious philosophers, to choose the Orthodox priests Pavel Florensky and Sergei Bulgakov (notwithstanding the fact that Tarkovsky referred to Florensky in connection with the latter’s writings on iconography). Russian religious philosophy and Orthodox theology have many points of contact, but their differences must be respected. Thus, the three virtues are meant to be taken in a wider sense than theologians would countenance, as befits the Silver Age religious philosophical tradition that Tarkovsky credited with forming his worldview.
In terms of a direct influence on Tarkovsky, it is easy to justify the choice of Semyon Frank, but Lev Shestov and Vasily Rozanov would be harder to justify, since I’ve not seen that Tarkovsky referred to the latter men by name. But I do not think it can, or should, be only a question of direct influence, even in the case of Semyon Frank. I choose Shestov, Frank and Rozanov, to be paired with Stalker, Rublev and Mirror, respectively, because I believe that each philosopher resonates with each film so as to enhance our appreciation of both sides of each pairing. Even if it could be demonstrated that Tarkovsky never actually read Shestov or Rozanov, I maintain that bringing these philosophers into close proximity with these particular films works. Ultimately, this is for the reader to decide, of course, but this is my hope at least. And if I lack the scholar-pedant’s desire to painstakingly confirm and trace every influence, it is because too often I have seen such exercises grind great men and their works into dust, beyond all hope of reconstitution or even recognition. Better not to set pen to paper, than to set the children’s teeth on edge.