A film by Andrei Tarkovsky
Runtime: 162 mins
Russian with English subtitles
18th March 2012; 5.45 pm
Perks Mini Theater
The films of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky are more like environments than entertainments. He uses length and depth to slow us down, to edge us out of the velocity of our lives, to enter a zone of reverie and meditation. In his second film Solaris, ground control has been receiving strange transmissions from the three remaining cosmonauts aboard the Solaris space station. On the day before his flight, Kelvin is visited by a former cosmonaut, Berton (Vladislav Dvozhetsky), who, years earlier, was sent on a rescue mission, and had a firsthand encounter with the bizarre metamorphosis of the Solaris ocean.
But Kelvin is unmoved, believing that human emotion has no bearing in the search for Truth, and raises the possibility of, not only abandoning the Solaris mission, but aiming radiation at the turbulent ocean in order to destroy its inexplicable activity.
Upon arriving at the space station, Kelvin is greeted by apathy and evasion, along with the tragic news of Gibarian's suicide. A videotaped message shows a frail, disheveled Gibarian driven to despair by tormented visions of a lost loved one, and a profound sense of isolation. However, after a restless night's sleep, he begins to realize the validity of Berton and the crew's seeming hallucinations after his dead wife Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk) mysteriously reappears on the station.
Solaris is Andrei Tarkovsky's visually hypnotic, deeply affecting, and thematically accessible film on love, conscience, and reconciliation. Similar to other Tarkovsky films, most notably Andrei Rublev and The Sacrifice, Solaris is an unsettling portrait of man's inequitable, often destructive interaction with his environment.
Symbolically, Tarkovsky uses curvilinear structures, confined spaces, and disorganization to represent the emotional and physical turmoil of the space station. Furthermore, periodic changes in lighting and moments of weightlessness preclude any sense of rhythm, creating a literal imbalance. Chromatic shifts, which initially occur to delineate chronology, increase in frequency with the development of the story, reflecting the crew's assimilation of the two states of consciousness.
In the end, the Truth proves to be as elusive as the thinly veiled reality of Solaris: Can a man truly reconcile with his irretrievable past, or is he inexorably bound to the guilt and regret of his spiritual longing?
“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.”
Considered one of Russia’s most distinguished contemporary directors, the late Andrei Tarkovsky is known for highly personalized and poetic films. The son of poet Arseni Tarkovsky, he studied Arabic and first worked as a geologist before attending the State Film School in Moscow under Mikhail Romm. While there he made a pair of short films, “There Will Be No Leave Today” (1959) and the acclaimed Katok i Skripka/The Steamroller and the Violin (his diploma film). Following graduation in 1960, Tarkovsky went to work for Mosfilm and made his feature-film directorial debut in 1962 with Ivanovo Detstvo/Ivan’s Childhood. The film earned him top honors at that year’s Venice Film Festival.
His sophomore film, Andrei Rublev, is Tarkovsky’s most renowned work. Ostensibly a portrait of a 15th century Russian painter, the film is actually a metaphorical drama mirroring the plight of Russian artists. Some have expanded the film’s parable to reflect the dramatic effects of war and chaos upon humanity. Many critics consider this film Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, but though it was made in 1966, problems with Soviet censors deferred its release until 1971. The film won a FIPRESCI award at Cannes and brought Tarkovsky to the forefront of international cinema. His 1976 film Zerkalo/The Mirror, with its open-ended narrative and interesting camera techniques, was very popular among Russian intellectuals. An intimate, multi-layered autobiographical story in which the time frames fluidly move forward and backwards, it reflects Tarkovsky’s dreams and his experiences growing up in an artist’s community under Stalin’s rule. It is considered by many a subjective companion piece to Ivanovo Detstvo, which looked objectively at a boy’s experience growing up during the WWII era.
In the early ’80s, Tarkovsky started making films outside of Soviet Russia. But though he would make films in Italy, Sweden, and London, they would remain uniquely Russian in subject and tone. In 1984, Tarkovsky was unable to get formal permission to remain abroad and learned that should he return to Moscow that he would no longer be allowed to make films, so he defected to Western Europe. In 1986, he made his final film, Offret/The Sacrifice. The film won a Special Jury Prize at Cannes. Later that year, Tarkovsky died in Paris of lung cancer.