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|1983||>>Voyage in Time||.../...|
Review last updated: February 1, 2020
I really have no business talking about the work of Andrei Tarkovsky. It's too beautiful, too intelligent, too meaningful, intellectually challenging and disturbingly articulate. To talk about Solaris, Stalker, The Mirror, and the others with the same pompous I-know-more-than-you attitude I usually have would make me look foolish, and it would be insulting to what this rare type of art really is. I'm just another know-it-all hipster airhead who, like thousands of others, caught onto this shit in a wave of new interest in old, foreign cinema. Tarkovsky deserves much better than this. However, I will talk about him and his work. I admit I'm an ignorant man, a foolish man, and I myself am probably oblivious to many of the greater meanings and truths illustrated in these works.
Tarkovsky's films are not like anyone else's films. And I know it's easy to say that about everyone from Lynch to Bunuel, from Bergman to Sjostrom. Tarvkosky simply transcended the very medium in a way that all of those other auteurs, no matter how inspired or challenged, never dared to attempt. If you enjoy films like me, and you're also like me, who enjoys putting himself "above" others and looking down his nose at things, self-describing himself as "patrician", arbiter of taste, what have you: Don't fuck with Tarkovsky. It doesn't matter what you have to say, you simply don't know what you're talking about. This work is deeper than you are, it is made by people much smarter than you are, for people much smarter than any of us, and you should be grateful that these films aren't condescending or hopelessly abstract. I've already admitted that I don't know what I'm talking about. Despite everything I just said, I still hold true the belief that art is subjective, and no one's opinion can ever be considered "correct" or "incorrect".
Solaris is a meditation. It is a very slow, yet tremendously momentous mind-clearing meditation. The film is very notable for being particularly silent, with roughly 3/4ths of the film's content being silent. The dialogue is sparse, yet very powerful and realistic in its brevity, and the soundtrack consists of original music and Bach selections. To call this film a "sci-fi" movie would be to insult it, because you would be then comparing it to everyone from Cronenberg to Lucas. It is extremely influential in a number of ways. Despite being produced and released among the notoriously strict censors of the Soviet Union, these simple films have done more to elevate the young medium into a truly respectable plane of ideas, than the vast majority of films ever made. Solaris directly addresses the very nature of thought, and the unspeakable subconscious trenches of humanity, in completely subtle and accessible ways. What you should notice about this film, (Stalker obviously is like this too) is that it is about a physical entity in the universe with extraordinary properties: these geographic (or, interstellar) locations do not behave the way nature and physics typically behave. Look at what the disgraced scientist Berton says on the film Kris Kelvin's family watches. He describes a frightening experience traveling in the atmosphere of Solaris, in which he sees an enormous, possibly 100-foot-tall, naked toddler. His colleagues are polite to him, but they dismiss his experience as consisting largely of a hallucination.
At this point in the film, Kris is not taking his journey to the planet's orbit as seriously as he should be, he somehow has an attitude of "well these people are probably just troubled, this stuff probably won't happen to me". He will slowly become permanently trapped in his own mind. When he arrives onto the space station, which is in a state of complete disarray, he finds one of the crew members, Dr. Gabarian, has committed suicide. He is then visited by his long-deceased wife in the morning, inexplicably walking around and talking to him. His first instinct, like anyone who has not been accustomed to living in these extraordinary conditions, is to panic: He throws his wife into the decompression chamber and ejects her into outer space. This film might be criticized for being particularly slow-paced, overly indulgent, or unnecessarily long, but the pacing of this film is ideal for me, especially with the challenging ideas being introduced. The visuals are also gorgeous, calming, stimulating, and just flashy enough to articulate what the extraordinary properties in nature are now.
In the final scene of the film, we see Kris talking with his family back at his house on Earth. However, the camera zooms out and reveals that his cherished childhood home is on an island in Solaris. What the viewer will eventually conclude from this (maybe not even on the first viewing) is that this planet is not a drug, it's not a person, it's not radioactive or poisonous. It is a conscious entity. It approaches human beings in the forms of memories, hallucinations, dead relatives, and it converses with them, becoming more powerful the more it knows.