“Auteur in Space”: A Video Essay on How Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Transcends Science Fiction

If you haven’t yet seen Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris but do plan on watch­ing it (find it online here), rest assured that there’s no wrong way to go about it. You can plunge, with­out prepa­ra­tion, right into its vivid, tor­ment­ed Sovi­et sci-fi world of fail­ing high tech­nol­o­gy, sub­lime nat­ur­al forces, and haunt­ing mem­o­ry. You can do no end of pre­lim­i­nary research on the film, its mak­er, and its mak­er’s strug­gle to adapt the orig­i­nal Stanis­law Lem nov­el to his own dis­tinc­tive sen­si­bil­i­ty. Or you could just pre­cede your screen­ing with “Auteur in Space,” a brief exam­i­na­tion of Solaris by well-known cinephile video essay­ist kog­o­na­da.  It was made on behalf of The British Film Insti­tute.

“The very con­cept of genre is as cold as the tomb,” the nar­ra­tor quotes Tarkovsky as writ­ing, going on to cite his crit­i­cism of Stan­ley Kubrick­’s 2001 “for being too enam­ored by the spec­ta­cle of the genre, for being too exot­ic, too immac­u­late.” From then on, the video demon­strates not just what Tarkovsky does to push Solaris out of the shad­ow of 2oo1, but also to break it out of the stan­dard forms of sci­ence fic­tion and, ulti­mate­ly, to free it from the stric­tures of genre itself — to occu­py that cat­e­go­ry we can only call Tarkovsky.

And so the Russ­ian auteur decides to make the space sta­tion on which most of the film takes place “look like a bro­ken-down old bus.” He decides “to spend five min­utes show­ing a man in an ordi­nary car trav­el­ing along the high­way, and less than two min­utes show­ing his main char­ac­ter trav­el­ing through space.” He gives in to his “occu­pa­tion with the ele­men­tal things of Earth.” He comes to “ques­tion the lim­its of sci­ence in engag­ing the mys­ter­ies of exis­tence,” ulti­mate­ly using Solaris to pit sci­ence against fic­tion, “each with their own weight and his­to­ry and pur­suit of truth and knowl­edge.”

If, indeed, you haven’t yet seen Solaris and watch this video essay, you’ll sure­ly find your­self no longer able to resist the temp­ta­tion to expe­ri­ence the film as soon as pos­si­ble. Maybe you’ll pop in the DVD or Blu-Ray, or bet­ter yet, maybe you’ll catch a the­atri­cal screen­ing. But if you under­stand­ably can’t wait for even a moment, you can watch it free online right now. And find oth­er Tarkovsky films free online here.

via io9

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Andrei Tarkovsky Calls Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey a “Pho­ny” Film “With Only Pre­ten­sions to Truth”

Watch Solaris (1972), Andrei Tarkovsky’s Haunt­ing Vision of the Future

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Shot by Shot: A 22-Minute Break­down of the Director’s Film­mak­ing

The Mas­ter­ful Polaroid Pic­tures Tak­en by Film­mak­er Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Film­mak­ers: Sac­ri­fice Your­self for Cin­e­ma

A Poet in Cin­e­ma: Andrei Tarkovsky Reveals the Director’s Deep Thoughts on Film­mak­ing and Life

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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