Writing Plan

November 11, 2009

Main elements of interest

  • · Difference between the novel and Tarkovsky’s film
  • · Inclusion of Science fiction codes and conventions
  • · Symbolism and metaphorical undertone
  • · Tarkovsky’s personal view, specific reference to Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time: reflections on the cinema, by Tarkovsky A., translated from Russian by Kitty Hunter-Blair (1986, published by Texas Press)
  • · A critics’ insight
  • · Specific highlight of the clip
  • · Conclusion of findings

Structure

1. Introduction of the clip and the film Solaris (look at biography of Tarkovsky, how previous work has influenced him. Looking to the future, how works after Solaris retain his conventions).

– Possible source: An extract from the book “Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema” by Robert Bird (2008 published by Reaktion Books ltd)

2. Difference between the novel and Tarkovsky’s film (look at articles by Lem) [sourced online] Internet link: http://english.lem.pl/works/novels/solaris/44-lems-opinion [accessed 11th November]

3. Inclusion of science fiction code and conventions

Book Source: Tarkovksy (25th February 2008) by Vlad Strukov, Edited by Nathan Dunne, published by Black Dog Publishing, London)

4. Symbolism and metaphorical undertone

– DVD clip: Solaris, (1972) dir. Tarkovsky A., published by Artificial Eye

– DVD clip: Stalker, (1979) dir. Tarkovsky A., published by Artificial Eye

“Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time – reflections on the cinema”, by Tarkovsky A., translated from Russian by Kitty Hunter-Blair (1986, published by Texas Press)

5. A critics’ insight

– Articles and reviews on Solaris

Roger Ebert’s review for the Chicago Sun Times, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20030119/REVIEWS08/301190301/1023 , published Jan 19, 2003

6. Specific highlight of the clip

Retain the source on which the blog is based on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y2ZREQWJSM

– A still image from Solaris (1972) Tarkovksy A. [Screen Shot taken online] available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y2ZREQWJSM [Accessed 24th October]

– A still image from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) dir. Kubrick S. [online image] Sourced from:

http://www.aquariumdrunkard.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/2001-a-space-odyssey.jpg [Accessed 24th of October]

7. Conclusion

I-map

November 11, 2009

 

 

“SOLARIS”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dystopia Vs Utopia

(Solaris)       (Earth)

 

“Solaris” symbology connotes that Earth is Tarkovsky’s answer to the simplest form of ‘utopia’ as opposed to the manufactured world of ‘Solaris’ and the space station.

Nature

The film begins slowly so that more screen time is given to the adventures that are Earthbound so that the viewer is able to appreciate the character of Kris having sequentially lived in his world for the duration of the film. This tool brings the viewer closer into his world.

Knowledge

The search for knowledge is an underlying theme that metaphorically represents Tarkovsky’s own search within himself (the speech given by Kris Kelvin questions being and his parallel form on Solaris, Hari a materialised version of his ideal).

Epistemological Journey

 

Tarkovsky inflicts a level of questioning into his film that moves above the escapism of modern mainstream cinema. The narrative is non-fictional, although deals with the very real  quest for knowledge which Kris voices through his gradual understanding of the alien planet

Conventions of the author

The space station deliberately accentuates Tarkovsky’s preference over the sterile alien atmosphere.

 

 

Study Diary

November 11, 2009

24/10/09

While commencing the task of writing my blog I have encountered a vast array of initial problems. Most importantly, I have never written a blog before and as such not equipped in the slightest when preparing a specific writing plan in which my research blog was to adhere to. After choosing my topic (a clip from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris) I had to find a relative approach to setting about a consistent way of researching for information that would be of value to my blog. To begin with, I am not up to date with my research and as a result I feel I have fallen back at the early stage of the blogging process. After preparing certain stages in which to tackle the research I will hopefully be able to look at the blog in a more clerical light. The first stage or angle which I want to look at is the whole film of Solaris due to the fact that I have not seen it yet, this will be interesting in terms of looking back at my initial first impressions of the clip and compare and see if my questioning is relevant and accurate. Therefore, as a result of viewing Solaris I will have the opportunity to contextualise the clip within its original work then, able to find an aspect that I can follow and research academically, knowing that it makes logical sense regarding the film as a whole.

28/10/09

Having just watched Solaris I feel that I have benefited from validating my first hand lines of inquiry by relating it to the film. I had originally asked a string of questions that related to specific parts of the clip however not knowing any of the background of the film I had continued to asking queries that had I persisted in following for research would have left considerable dead ends. A particular question that I had asked at was:

”What is the metaphorical relevance of the blinding light near the end of the clip? Is it an aesthetic or a narrative based reason? What is the metaphorical relevance of the blinding light near the end of the clip? Is it an aesthetic or a narrative based reason?”

When watching the clip for the first time what is most striking is a section at the end, where a bright light appears to slowly fill the screen and absorb the characters present within the setting. This is achieved in the way that the light is so bright the characters appear unseen before the sequence cuts. Personally I felt that I could have interpreted this in a variety of ways but what was made greatly apparent was its significance given the directorial decision of the inclusion of the light and why such a specific aesthetic was incorporated. On the other hand, when watching the entirety of the film the aforementioned sequence did not really retain any element of interest regarding the whole of Solaris. In addition my notion on it being an integral visual element was false as through examining various books (most notably Sculpting in Time by Tarkovsky) many writers and Tarkovksy himself do not linger upon this sequence as being one of specific artistic intent of the director. Instead he was more largely focused on the overall aesthetic of the film rather than the sole light sequence. As such the segment was deemed unusable for the reason that it did not bear any relevance contextually, other than my subjective first interpretation of its meaning. I aim in the future to not only look at the relevance of the clip by itself but how the clip is placed within the film and its basis.

6/11/09

I have just completed my recent blog on how science fiction plays a part within this visual of Solaris and how the film gels with this genre. I found this blog to be the most finite and conclusive of my entries as my research at this point has led me to find endings to my queries. It was also interesting to see how moving away from the clip the film as a whole suggests it represents a notion that is ‘anti-sci-fi’ this again is something I wish to explore in further blogs (it will briefly be included in ‘Tarkovsky as an auter’) as it is a concept that falls very accurate within Tarkovsky’s own interpretation of his film and his ideologies.

REFERENCES

November 11, 2009

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema” by Robert Bird (2008 published by Reaktion Books Ltd pages 122-123)
  • “Sculpting in Time: reflections on the cinema” by Tarkovsky Andrei, translated from Russian by Kitty Hunter-Blair (1986, published by Texas Press, Pages 164-165
  • “Sculpting in Time: reflections on the cinema” by Tarkovsky Andrei, translated from Russian by Kitty Hunter-Blair, published in 1986 by Texas Press, Pages 199-200
  • “Tarkovksy” by Vlad Strukov, Edited by Nathan Dunne, published by Black Dog Publishing, London page 68, (25th February 2008)
  • “Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema” by Robert Bird (2008 published by Reaktion Books ltd page 117) [sourced 4th November]
  • “Collins English Dictionary” 2008 edition, p189, edited by Cormac Mckeown, Elspeth Summers, Published by Harper Collins
  • “Tarkovksy” by Vlad Strukov, edited by Nathan Dunne, published by Black Dog Publishing, London page 67, (25th February 2008)

INTERNET SOURCES

  • Definition of nihilism [sourced online] from the website www.thefreedictionary.com (Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2008 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.)

Sourced online from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y2ZREQWJSM [accessed 9th October 2009]

FILM

  • · “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968, dir.Stanley Kubrick)

  • “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951, dir. Robert Wise)
  • Forbidden Planet” (1956, dir. Fred M. Wilcox)

After gaining an invaluable look at the wealth of ideas presented within Tarkovsky’s Solaris I have come to a number of conclusions, but equally another number of unanswerable questions. Tarkovsky said “the idea of great work is always equivocal” (Taken from Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time: reflections on the cinema, by Tarkovsky A., translated from Russian by Kitty Hunter-Blair [1986, published by Texas Press, Page 164-165]) and with this concept makes his films open to interpretation as they are the workings of an auteur who himself, believes cinema is an open medium rather than a dogmatic exercise. In order to gain another perspective from the secondary research I had carried out, I wanted to obtain an interview, resulting in an inclusion of primary research. My initial goal was to interview a lecturer on Tarkovsky’s Solaris to grasp its meaning from an objective, external point of view.

Luckily I had the chance of interviewing Terrence McSweeney a previous lecturer of mine who is a research specialist within Russian cinema.

“Research Specialisms

Andrei Tarkovsky; Russian Cinema from Pre-Soviet to Post-Glasnost; South East Asian Cinemas (especially South Korea); Cinematic Representations of Memory; Film Theory; Video Game Theory; Gilles Deleuze.

Previous Projects

Terence has delivered papers on a wide range of subjects from Andrei Tarkovsky to George Romero and Kim Ki Duk.

Current research

Terence is about to complete his PhD in late 2007. He is the co-editor of the upcoming volume ‘Millennial Cinema: Representations of Memory in Contemporary Film’ with Amresh Sinha (NYU) and Gillian Harkins (Washington)

Terrence McSweeney’s profile from the BFI website [Sourced online] http://www.bfi.org.uk/filmtvinfo/researchers/mirr/researcher/586 [accessed 11th November]

“Memory is at the heart of the Tarkovsky experience. We view the films through the prism of our own experiences and project on them much from our inner selves. Therefore the films are as much about themselves as about Tarkovsky himself.”

Terry McSweeney

From this conversation many integral points arose, most obviously the reoccurring theme of memory within Tarkovsky’s work. As the above quote speculates that memory is as much about the film’s subconscious and through it the themes within Tarkovsky’s films materialize, such as the science fiction story of Solaris, the war and its importance of triggering memory in Ivan’s childhood (1962, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky), the force field within the zone in Stalker (1979, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky and it impact on the end sequence of Stalker’s memories coming to him in bed.

All of the above points coupled with the secondary research from various invaluable books have merged into giving me a gradual understanding of the meaning of Solaris. When looking at the themes and conventions I had found that the film is Tarkovsky’s way of producing an‘anti-sci-fi’ piece of cinema. In choosing to loosely adapt Stanislaw Lem’s novel it gave him the opportunity to acquire a base story for his film and within this base he appears to have crafted a science fiction film, devoid of science fiction. Tarkovsky’s love of Earth and nature is established early on through the beginning of Solaris and in removing most of the futuristic elements of Lem’s novel only using conventional science fiction aesthetics on the alien planet of ‘Solaris’ we can see an established distinction in the form of divide presented by Tarkovsky. On the one side we are introduced to Earth not so much a ‘utopia’ but a more natural and organic state. On the other when Kris Kelvin departs to ‘Solaris’ we are not longer in an organic state but a manufactured alternative to earth, a spectral sterile atmosphere, like a museum of technological achievements’.

An extract from the book Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema by Robert Bird (2008 published by Reaktion Books ltd page 117) [sourced 4th November].

The above quote is Tarkovsky’s criticism of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and aptly recognises his dismissal of films that do not contain layers which seep beyond the tangible into the metaphysical.

I have therefore found that in order to look at the specific clip it seem irrevelant to judge it solely on mise-en-scene, camerawork and its acting as it is the subtext, the undertone of the character’s interactions that Tarkovsky wants the viewer to perceive, as well as the visual element. Tarkovsky’s critique seems to say just that about 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is not that the film is not well made but it is that for Tarkovsky, substance is the key to knowledge and thus his epistemological approach to the process of filmmaking.

“Solaris has been about people lost in the cosmos and obliged whether they liked it or not, to acquire and master one more piece of knowledge. Man’s unending quests for knowledge given him gratuitously is the source of great tension for it brings with it constant anxiety, hardship, grief and disappointment, as the final truth that can never be known.”

(Taken from Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time: reflections on the cinema, by Tarkovsky A., translated from Russian by Kitty Hunter-Blair [1986, published by Texas Press, Page 198-199])

Continuing from my previous inquiry, I will analyse how Tarkovsky’s construction of Solaris suggests it has been manifested with his own specific conventions and how his personality echoes the characters within the clip.

To firstly carry this out it is imperative to look at Robert Bird’s book ‘Elements of Cinema‘ to give an objective look at Tarkovsky’s work. Below a section devoted to the motif of memory that runs throughout Solaris exposes its reasons:

“The particular ability of cinema to address the imaginary is evident in Tarkovsky’s treatment of photographs. In the prologue on earth we are shown the black-and-white photograph of Kelvin’s mother in a frame on the sideboard. Then, when Kelvin is burning his archive, a photograph of Hari lies on the grass alongside a partially burnt photograph of an unknown woman in a bonnet standing at a window. It appears that Kelvin takes the photos of his mother and of Hari to the spacecraft. When Hari finds her own image she fails to recognize it until she sees herself looking at it in the mirror, although she later recognizes Kelvin’s mother in the family film he shows. Still photographs are also used by the other crew members: Gibarian left a book with photographs of Armenian churches, while Snaut is examining photographs of his infant guest.

At the end of Tarkovsky’s Solaris Kelvin’s memories, films, photographs and visions all merge into a continuous fantasy that tempts him with its fluidity. His earthly home, the spacecraft and the alien planet ‘Solaris’ merge into one; simulacra of Hari multiply and fill his visual field. These representations promise to settle into symbols, that is, conceptual representations that will yield some determinate meaning. Yet Kelvin is frustrated by the immateriality of it all and resists tarrying in the realm of representation. The problem is revealed to be not that of accessing one’s past but of getting back from the past and the entire imaginary realm into the present and into self-possession.

This is, in a sense, the very problem that any moviegoer experiences when the lights go up. Tarkovsky hoped that the spectator, having been immersed in the previously unknown and fantastic atmosphere of “Solaris” and having returned to earth, would acquire the ability to breathe freely and in the familiar way that he become refreshingly light in this familiarity. In short, that he feels the salvific bitterness of nostalgia.

It is not the viewer’s own nostalgia, but that of Kelvin for the planet to which he cannot return, unlike the viewer who walks confidently out of the door. Nonetheless, the viewer’s consciousness has been disrupted by the sensory plenitude of the film, which resists the mere flow of time with a semblance of presence. It suggests that if any ethical or metaphysical programme can be ascribed to Tarkovsky, it is that of cultivating a patient attention and appreciation of the unrepeatable and unrepresentable tissues of life within each present moment.”

An extract from the book Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema by Robert Bird (2008 published by Reaktion Books ltd page 122-123)

Throughout this descriptive section one thing remains evidently unmistakeable, Solaris deals with many themes however, memory not only is the forefront of the narrative, more so it is the way in which the subject matter is dealt with that is the point of interest which Tarkovsky envisioned. The conceptual theme of memory is kept constant throughout the narrative of Solaris, and achieved throughout by focusing on a character’s journey throughout their present and past. The protagonist in this case is Kris Kelvin and from the beginning visual insight into his world, we as an audience take on the role as overseers of his life for the duration of the film. Although Solaris deals with a broad range of other characters, Tarkovsky loosely adapts Stanislaw Lem’s source novel to maintain a way of sculpting the character of Kris into a persona that not only acts as the main premise of the film, but his existence is allegorical as he accounts for Earth’s being on the alien planet of Solaris. In a way, this expresses to the audience that he represents them, his journey is similar to that of the audience they, like Kris will view the landmark entrance onto Solaris at the same time, for the first time. Although the film is not at all influenced by a documentary style the way in which the action unfolds leads the audience to go through the same journey process of the film’s protagonist, similar to a way a documentary focuses on its theme and ‘documents’ it. As a result Tarkovsky crafts the notion that the audience are slowly introduced to Kris and his family through documented gestures, images around his home, introduction of family members, so that when the dramatic events occur on the space station they feel threatened and touched much in the same way that Kris feels, consequently evolving into an empathic connection.

“Art as I said earlier, affects a person’s emotions, not his reason. Its function is as it were to turn and loosen the human soul, making it receptive and good. When you see a good film, look at a painting, listen to music (assuming of course that its ‘your’ sort of art) you are disarmed and entranced from the start – but not by an idea, not by thought. In any case, the idea of great work is always equivocal, always has two faces, as Thomas Mann put it; it is as multi-faceted and indefinite as life itself. The author therefore reckon on his work being understood in one particular way and according to his own perception of it. All he can do is present his own image of the world, for people to be able to look at it through is eyes, and be filled with his feeling, doubts and thoughts…”

Taken from Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time: reflections on the cinema, by Tarkovsky A., translated from Russian by Kitty Hunter-Blair (1986, published by Texas Press, Page 164-165)

Although Tarkovsky’s films are more open to interpretative meaning in contrast to mainstream cinema, as he discloses “the idea of great work is always equivocal”, the level of emotional involvement that the audience has with the cinematic experience asks whether his films are not sole narratives with specific ideas but in fact epistemological questions and responses that Tarkovsky himself realizes through the medium of film. The application of crafting his own concepts  and messages through the ideas taken from Lem’s source novel is a perceptible quality within the texture of the film. Tarkovsky has many codes and themes within his work and it is this fact that highlights his quality as an auteur. It is his ability to attain his own conventions and reoccurring structural themes no matter what subject, leads the deduction that he is fundamentally an auteur with an inimitable trademark.

In this entry I aim to produce evidence that facilitates in showcasing aspects that Tarkovsky has used regarding the visual side of Solaris.

It can be visibly noted that Tarkovsky approached the appearance of the film with an appreciation stemming from the artistic angle of the cinematic spectrum. He has obviously been influenced by ‘high art’ such as fine art paintings (Rembrandt’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’) and classical music (the score incorporates JS Bach’s Chorale prelude in F minor) given, his fusion of both these mediums incorporated into Solaris. This suggests that Solaris was the director’s answer to producing a film equivalent to characteristics associated of such stature. The most evident example of this is the film’s final sequence that is a symbolic reconstruction of Rembrandt’s painting ‘The Return of the Prodigcal Son’.

This climactic conclusion comprises of Kelvin clasping his father in an overwhelmed state, captured through a wide angle crane shot that tracks backwards, revealing Earth and Solaris as one.

Solaris_72-prodigalmovie

A still from the final sequence of Solaris [Sourced online] from

http://www.cinemademerde.com/Solaris_72-prodigalmovie.gif  [Accessed 8th November]

Painting, ‘The return of the prodigal son’, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1662 [Sourced online] from

http://jessecox.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/rembrandt-return-of-the-prodigal-son1.jpg [Accessed 8th November]

Below Vlad Strukov writes about how Rembrandt’s painting is invisioned in Tarkovsky’s thought process:

“when the worlds of earth and solaris merge, it is the father that connects them in an act of transcending consiousness. By visually recreating Rembrandt’s “The Return Of The Prodigal Son, circa 1662, Tarkovsky affirms that he is interested in exploring the role of the father in the production and diffusion of knowledge.” [A section from the book Tarkovksy (25th February 2008) by Vlad Strukov, Edited by Nathan Dunne published by Black Dog Publishing, London page 68]

The above quote determines that as well as the influence of art, Tarkovksy’s initial reason for using a well established painting as the forefront of  his conclusion to solaris, was to represent the symbology of the role of  Kris and his relationship with his father. in addition it borders on not only the paternal relationship but  how this affects the people around him and how his actions have affected Hari.  Moreover, during the clip Kris’s dialogue  could be seen as his character releasing the worry he has over the people he has left back at earth. Again, the line “suffering makes life seem suspect” can be construed as Kris’ acknowledgment of the fact that when he returns to earth, his father would have died, already being taken gravely ill before Kris’ departure on the mission. However as the line of dialogue fortifies his questioning over the principality of life and death of the people he cares about, at the end of the film he is reunited with his father alive and well, the intial emotion is that of an over-powering emotional discord, where he is not sure if he has returned to Earth or if it is his subconscious vision of the ideal, produced by Solaris.

Further inquiry:

Can this ‘artistic’ input make Tarkovsky an auteur conscious of the high art culture around him, or does it deviate from the initial plot of Solaris?

Continuing in trying to answer questions that arose in my previous entry, a piece taken from Robert Bird’s book establishes its views below:

“Another talking point about “Solaris” was its relationship to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A space Odyssey” (1968), which was released in the build-up to Tarkovsky’s shoot. Tarkovsky’s stated response to Kubrick’s film was purely negative; he called it ‘a spectral sterile atmosphere, like a museum of technological achievements’. The contrast helped Tarkovsky to formulate anew his distinct understanding of cinematic representation: ‘Of course, the action of “Solaris” occurs in a unique and unfamiliar atmosphere’, he explained. ‘Our task is to concretize this uniqueness in its sensuous external features, so that it be material and tangible, without anything ephemeral, uncertain, special or intentionally fantastic; so that the screen manifests the “flesh” and the texture of the atmosphere (sreda)’. Kubrick’s film, by contrast, was merely ‘fake’.”

An extract from the book Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema by Robert Bird (2008 published by Reaktion Books ltd page 117) [sourced 4th November]

Interestingly, although not denying Solaris as a conformist to the sci-fi genre, Bird suggests that the fundamental concept for Solaris was for “Tarkovsky to formulate anew his distinct understanding of cinematic representation”. With this statement it can be put forward that like my previous question (was Solaris a way of making a film that targets science fiction and technology…) Tarkovsky aimed to make people aware of the “unique and unfamiliar atmosphere” of the space station, which contrasts to that of the Earth. However he was illustrating that the film was intentionally be devoid of technology as the forefront of its narrative, thus giving a far more realistic atmosphere as such, moving away from what he referred to above as a “museum of technical achievements”.

Tarkovksy mentioned Solaris’ “unfamiliar atmosphere” to be a way toconcretize its sensuous external features, so that it be material and tangible” in a way that the audience would be able to acknowledge the difference between the reality (represented in the film by Earth) and the tangible copies, such as Kris’ wife Hari representative of illusion and artificial yet, visibly material organisms that encapsulate the “flesh and texture of the atmosphere”. Moreover, Tarkovsky’s concept meant the film was not meant to be fantastical, but instead a meditation on human life and its relationship with memories. Although some technological elements shine through, most notably in the mise-en-scene, in which Tarkovksy sculpted a vision on the space station as an alternative from Earth, with advanced futuristic building concepts that visibly demonstrate his initial retaliation to the narrative codes applied in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. By this it could be interpreted that unlike Kubrick, Tarkovksy presents a view of the future as a dystopian environment from the moment Kris enters the space station, as innately all that is around feels like it shall exacerbate into a cacophonous rage of emotion.  In addition, Tarkovsky’s fascination with nature is another fundamental clue to why Earth is given more attention to detail within the first part of the film and its focus on the relationship between its inhabitants.

Meanwhile, in contrast on the space station, the atmosphere is cold and bleak. In paying specific attention to the clip, we see Kris walking through the messy, lived in debris on the ship, unlike the comforting memories and encounters we see him having on earth. This notion visually accentuates to the audience the gradual decay present not only on the ship itself, but which the characters aboard (Kris and Dr. Snaut) are initially feeling as the mise-en-scene highlights a pathetic fallacy.

Moving aside from the sequential and denotative meanings,

In this entry, I aim to interrogate Solaris’ inclusion within the sci-fi genre, looking at the whole of the film in general as well as the clip. Although it has been firmly established that Solaris is a sci-fi film, Tarkovksy encapsulates a significantly different atmosphere to that of known sci-fi films prior such as The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951, dir. Robert Wise) and Forbidden Planet (1956, Fred M. Wilcox), which were made in a specific studio system fashion.

Picture 1

A still image from Solaris (1972) Tarkovksy A. [Screen Shot taken online] available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y2ZREQWJSM [Accessed 24th October]

Being one of Tarkovksy’s earlier films, it is evident that cinematic convention and genre play an integral role in not only the clip but contextually throughout the whole film. Examples that firstly, visually identify that it adheres to this genre are evident as we open with two men discussing on what we intuitively believe to be a spacecraft or scientifically advanced ship. The above still is near the end of the clip and coupled with a similar still from 2001: A Space Odyssey, we can see a considerable parallel in terms of both films holding roughly the same aesthetic look.

Stanley Kubrick’s landmark sci-fi film denotes a futuristic and fantastical setting, similar to the space station seen in the sample from Solaris. As a result, we can determine that, given the conventions of sci-fi cinema present in 2001: A Space Odyssey, such as advanced technologies and innovative designs, we can therefore categorise Solaris as being a film that adopts a number of codes and conventions that help to conform and establish a visual look, reminiscent of a science fiction film.

2001-a-space-odyssey

A still image from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) dir. Kubrick S. [online image] Sourced from:

http://www.aquariumdrunkard.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/2001-a-space-odyssey.jpg [Accessed 24th of October]

However just because both stills establish similar visual inclinations that emulate science fiction conventions, does that mean that Solaris is simply a science fiction film? Aesthetically it resembles such a notion, however when looking at the narrative on a more analytical level the themes of drama, philosophy and the study of the social environment in which the characters live in, leads to more inquiry about the messages and values that Tarkovksy wanted to capture. Also can it also be suggested whether or not on a metaphysical level the sci-fi input was a way of making a film that targets science fiction and as a result an anti technological world as its ethic?

In response to my previous blog, focus was put upon the clip’s relevance having seen the entire film from which it was sourced. After various questions arose from viewing the clip, one aspect that maintained my interest was the conversation between Kris and Dr. Snaut. What is most memorable from the dialogue is its sub-textural format and the comments Kris makes that seem to disclose a large amount of undertone present within the scene.

“Dr. Snaut

It looks like it’s showing some activity. Your encephalogram helped.

Kris Kelvin

You know…whenever we show pity, we ravage ourselves. Maybe its true…Suffering makes life seem dismal and suspect. But I won’t accept that. No, I won’t accept that. Is that which is indispensable to life also harmful to it? No, it’s not harmful. Of course it’s not harmful. Remember Tolstoy? His suffering over the impossibility of loving mankind as a whole? How much time has passed since then? Somehow I can’t figure it out. Help me. See, I love you. But love is a feeling we can experience but never explain. One can explain the concept. You love that which you can lose: yourself, a woman, a homeland.  Until today, love was simply unattainable to mankind, to the Earth. Do you understand me, Snaut? There are so few of us. A few billion altogether. A handful! Maybe were here in order to experience people as a reason for love.

Dr. Snaut

He seems to have a fever.

Kris Kelvin

How did Gibarian die? You still haven’t told me.

Dr Snaut

I’ll tell you. Later.

Kris Kelvin

Gibarian didn’t die of fear. He died of shame. Shame – the feeling that will save mankind.”

Script of the dialogue from the clip. [Sourced online] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y2ZREQWJSM translated here from the subtitles of the clip [Accessed 3rd November]

Dialogue is a device that Tarkovksy uses to describe the intimate thoughts felt by the characters, rather than naturalistic tendency. In other words the dialogue not only pushes the narrative, but also acts as the narrative due to the philosophical statements that seem to reveal the diversity of the film’s characters.

Whilst looking closer it could be suggested that a nihilistic viewpoint resonates throughout Kris’ monologue. The reasons for this argument finds it self within the line suffering makes life seem dismal and suspect”, as such represents the beliefs founded upon the nihilistic notion that “nothing is worthwhile; life is pointless and human values are worthless[1]. With this implication it is clear that characters (in this case Kris) are written in the way that they imply or emulate certain views evident within the tangible world. The inclusion of philosophical thought and ideologies such as the nihilistic undertone within several highlighted lines of Kris’ monologue add depth to the character and suggest that he or she is real in the way that they disclose comments which are relative to the world we live in. As a result, it represents a lot more than just the primary reasons behind the character. The dialogue signifies that the characters are not just characters, but an element of realism is established within the celluloid world they are comprised of. However what is the reason of this as a cinematic tool.

This quote taken from Tarkovsky’s own writings establishes that realism is an integral part of his work as a filmmaker but more importantly an auter:

“Unfortunately the science fiction element in Solaris was nonetheless too prominent and became a distraction. The rockets and space stations – required by Lem’s novel – were interesting to construct but it seems to me now that the idea of the film would have stood out more vividly and boldly had we managed to dispense with these things altogether. I think that reality to which an artist is drawn as a means of saying what he has to about the world, must – if you will forgive the tautology – be real in itself: in other words understood by a person, familiar to him since childhood. And more real a film is in that sense; the more convincing will be the author’s statement.”

Taken from Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time –  reflections on the cinema, by Tarkovsky A., translated from Russian by Kitty Hunter-Blair (1986, published by Texas Press, Page 199-200)

Further lines of inquiry:

Why did Tarkovsky choose to adapt Stanislaw Lem’s Novel so loosely?

What was Lem’s reaction?

Did Tarkovsky adapt a previously made work or did he undertake Lem’s novel and craft it into his own subjective piece?


[1] Definition of nihilism [sourced online] from the website www.thefreedictionary.com (Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2008 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/nihilism [Accessed 3rd November 2009]