Conclusion of research findings

November 11, 2009

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])

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