Movie claimed the lives of director and his wife after they filmed in poisonous river
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Featured Image Credit: Mosfilm/Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo
One of celebrated director Andrei Tarkovsky's final films may have claimed his life, as well as his wife's and his leading man's.
It's one thing to suffer for your art, but something completely different to give up your life for it.
Putting life and limb at risk for your art is nothing new. There are the Renaissance painters being exposed to toxic chemicals used in their oil paint and more recently David Blaine's downright weird stunts, such as spending 44 days in a glass box above the Thames.
But director Andrei Tarkovsky may have paid the ultimate price for his masterpiece Stalker.
Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the film sees the titular 'Stalker' guiding people through a zone which has been rendered uninhabitable. Released in 1979, Tarkovsky died seven years later in 1986.
Tarkovsky chose an industry-ravaged section of Estonia to shoot the film after an earthquake made the original location in Tajikistan impossible to shoot in.
Sound recordist Vladimir Sharun has since said he believes that the deaths of Tarkovsky, his wife Larissa, and actor Anatoly Solonitsyn were linked to the toxic environment they were working in.
In 2001, he said: “We were shooting near Tallinn in the area around the small river Jägala with a half-functioning hydroelectric station. Up the river was a chemical plant and it poured out poisonous liquids downstream.
"There is even this shot in Stalker: snow falling in the summer and white foam floating down the river. In fact it was some horrible poison.”
He added: “Many women in our crew got allergic reactions on their faces.
"Tarkovsky died from cancer of the right bronchial tube. And Tolya Solonitsyn too. That it was all connected to the location shooting for Stalker became clear to me when Larisa Tarkovskaya died from the same illness in Paris."
It's never been confirmed if the deaths were indeed linked to the harsh surroundings while filming the movie. Nonetheless, Sharun became convinced that there is a connection.
Stalker has since become viewed as a hugely important piece of Soviet cinema, and is regularly included on lists of the greatest films of all time.
Whether the film did contribute the deaths or not, it raises some interesting questions about how far people are willing to go to create their art.