so this weekend has been a fairly relaxing contemplative experience. Reading, music (Lots of music) and seeing famous musicians in the Nuddy. In fact it was a performance last night at the Icelandic Opera and concert house, Harpa, that has inspired this weeks cult film corner.
Last night saw the performance of “Solaris 2.0” , a collaboration between Ben Frost, Daníel Bjarnason and the Krakow Sinfonetta to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Stanislaw Lem’s novel “Solaris”. Now i didn’t go, but i did have two friends that went, only to leave half way through! apparently according to them they found it a little boring. No accounting for taste i suppose.
As it’s well-known that Lem’s novel was adapted for film by famed Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky. And Solaris wasn’t the only one. For tonight i give you not one but TWO classic russian Sci-Fi adaptations for the price of one. Ladies and gentlemen, i give to you SOLARIS and STALKER.
Now i could go on for a while about the history and legacy of the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, but i think you should just first read his Wiki, then check some interviews with him here. Now let’s get back onto the films…
Solaris, made in 1972, is a psychological sci-fi tale of a bereaved psychologist that is sent to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris, where cosmonauts and scientist are studying what seems to a sentient, intelligent organism covering the entire planets surface. The study has stalled due to a member mysteriously dying after experiencing psychological problems. While at the space station the psychologist begins to experience hallucinations of his dead wife. Is it all in his mind, or is the alien intelligence trying to find ways in which to communicate to him?
SOLARIS is a slow building tale that has absolutely none of the classic western sci-fi traits of action/special effects/paper-thin characterisation. Instead it slowly draws you in with a realistic, mature approach to the idea regarding love, loss, and the nature of communication and alien life forms. Despite the lack of special effects, the cinematography is both lush and realistic. you may have to watch it twice, but you’ll get out of this film what you put into it. Yes, people you will have to watch and think while viewing this movie.
The ideas explored in Solaris are taken further in the next film from Andrei Tarkovsky this evening, STALKER. Loosely adapted from the novel roadside picnic, it tells of two men who attempt to travel into a heavily guarded area known as The Zone. where for some unknown reason, the normal rules of physics have been rendered null and void. To do this they hire a guide (the “Stalker” of the title), who can take them to a place known as “The Room”, where your innermost desires are granted and made reality. During the trip, they converse and explore their motives and reasons for trying to reach the room, all the while trying to ensure that they do not fall into danger. But will they encounter what they expected and will it be worth it in the end?
Like Solaris, STALKER is a dense, philosophical film about the nature of mans needs, desires and place in the universe. It’s a beautifully realised picture with the film, starting in bleak black and white before the entire look and feel of the film changes once they enter the Zone (one of the films stand out scenes). The image of the film is also as important as what is said by the characters. Image and text move in harmony with each other, aided by a heady psychedelic soundtrack.
Stalker has many ideas and messages about the nature of man desires, drive and the nature of god and man as the rational world of science clash with the spiritual, emotional side of people. Also, this is a bloody great film to experience while undergoing some form of chemically induced experience.
Now these films are both well over 2 hours long, so if you do decide to watch them, then be prepared to write off most of your day/evening. But you will truly come out of this a smarter, more rounded human being. A human being that will also likely be going “WTF did i just watch??”