One of the most important directors in both Russian and world cinema, Alexander Sokurov is considered by many to be the spiritual heir of the great Andrei Tarkovsky. Sokurov -- who has enjoyed a long creative relationship with Tarkovsky -- has discounted such comparisons, but certain similarities between their works remain indelible: a predilection towards very long takes, natural performances by their actors, and an almost otherworldly use of natural sounds and music. And, perhaps most important, both directors are concerned with the essential questions of human existence and the state of the human spirit.
Born June 14, 1951 in Podorvikha, a village in Russia's Irkutsk region, Sokurov was the son of a World War II veteran. His family moved around a good deal while Sokurov was growing up, and after finishing high school, he went to Gorki, Russia's third largest city. There, he attended Gorki University and began to work as an assistant television director when he was 19. He continued to direct television programs for the Gorki station until 1975, and during this time he became part of the university's history faculty. After completing his tenure with the station, Sokurov went to Moscow, where he was accepted at the prestigious State Film School, VGIK. Sokurov enjoyed a measure of success at VGIK, receiving mentoring from Alexander Zguridi and earning a prestigious Eisenstein stipend for his work. It was during this time that he met Tarkovsky, who took an interest in what the young filmmaker was doing.