LONDON (AFP).- Soviet film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky's personal archives sold at auction in London for £1.5 million ($2.4 million, 1.85 million) on Wednesday, returning to Russia at the end of a fierce bidding war.
The 18-minute battle, which saw the sale price rise far above the £80,000 to £100,000 estimate, was won by the government of his native Ivanovo region, northeast of Moscow, Sotheby's auctioneers said.
Tarkovsky, considered a great of world cinema, died of lung cancer aged 54 in Paris, in 1986.
The director was forced into exile after challenging the orthodoxies of Soviet leaders, notably by asserting religious values running directly counter to the official atheism of the Communist superpower.
The archive, pertaining to the years 1967-1986, will go on display in the Tarkovsky museum in the town of Yuryevets, where he spent his childhood.
The collection of several thousand working manuscripts, personal photographs, recordings and private documents casts new light on Tarkovsky's film-making techniques, private life and artistic struggle in his homeland, said Sotheby's.
The archive includes a draft letter addressed to president Leonid Brezhnev arguing Tarkovsky's case for working in the Soviet Union.
It also includes 32 audio tapes and 13 minidisks of interviews, and shot-by-shot director's books for some of his films, thought to be the only surviving copies.
"We are thrilled with the outstanding total that the Tarkovsky archive achieved," said Sotheby's manuscripts chief Stephen Roe.
"The tenacious and prolonged bidding which we witnessed is testament to the archive's international importance.
"This was an historic sale in the history of cinema. No significant material relating to Andrei Tarkovsky has ever before appeared at auction, and it is unlikely that such an archive will appear again."
The archive tells "the private story of a director who helped revolutionise the history of cinema and was lauded by many of the world's greatest film-makers."
After three student films, Tarkovsky made his debut with "Ivan's Childhood" in 1962 and won worldwide notice with his second feature "Andrei Rublev" in 1969.
He was acclaimed for "Solaris" (1972) and "Stalker" (1979) bracketing the autobiographical "Mirror" (1975), and went into exile to make "Nostalghia" (1983).
He won the Grand Jury Prize, the Cannes festival's second most prestigious award, for "Solaris" and did so again in 1986 for "The Sacrifice", the film some see as his masterpiece, made while he was dying of cancer.
Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky wanted the "unique collection of enormously important documents" returned to Tarkovsky's homeland, he told Interfax.
"That's why I had talks with some private individuals who could put forward the money."
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