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Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky)

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    Fred

    Hi,

    although this only my second posting including my self-introduction, I am taking the liberty to suggest a film not directed by AK: “Solaris” by Andrei Tarkovsky (not by Soderbergh, who made a completely different [more “main stream”] version). I have a very good excuse to recommend “Solaris”, though, because AK met Andrei Tarkovsky in Moscow when Solaris was filmed and was very impressed by him. It is also perpetuated that AK “borrowed” the trick of darkening the sky with black cloth for getting shots into the stream (for one of his “Dreams”, i.e. the “Village of the Watermills”) after he heard that Tarkovsky had used the same method in “Stalker”. I doubt that AK had not known about this before; even in “Sugata Sanshiro” this technique must have been used. There is another link between “Solaris” and Japan: The long scene with the protagonist riding through the “city of the future” was filmed in Akasaka/Tokyo.

    If you like slow films, watch Solaris . It is quite different from Stanislav Lem’s book “Solaris”.

    Warm regards,

    Fred

    More on the connections between Tarkovsky and AK:

    http://people.ucalgary.ca/~tstronds/nostalghia.com/TheTopics/AT_AK_Timeline.html

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    cocoskyavitch

    Welcome Neko-suki. Interesting link on Tarkovsky. From my experiences of his work, I do not see an obvious relationship to Kurosawa…but I do find his work haunting and fascinating.

    I lwas haunted and deeply moved by The Sacrifice, though Andrei Rublev was a impenetrable for the person I was when I viewed it years ago. I should revisit it, and on your recommendation, Solaris.

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    Fred

    Thanks for your welcome and your comment, cocoskyavitch. I certainly agree with you when it comes to the haunting character of Tarkovsky’s films. For that very reason, I have not even dared watching The Sacrifice

    In Andrei Rublev, the bell founder brings in a very positive and forward-looking element. But Andrei Rublev suffers and fails when he wants to help (the retarded girl is snatched away right after he kills the person who was initially trying to harm her). Somehow his belief helps him to keep a certain level of detachment and to create his beautiful art. That is hard to grasp. What can we do in this world — maybe only exist and create art?

    Stalker is about personal development/coming-of-age, a theme similar to the one in Sugata Sanshiro.

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    Ugetsu

    I must admit I struggle with Tarkovsky. I recently watched Solaris for the first time and I found it very perplexing – but I think the dvd version I got was a heavily edited version, I believe there is more than one version? I haven’t seen Sacrifice, but a year ago I watched Andrei Rublev and I found it heavy going. I really just didn’t get it, but I don’t know a lot about Russian history and culture so it may well have been my ignorance at work.

    I don’t really see much Tarkovsky in Kurosawas work, but I’ve seen a few earlier Russian films (including Eisenstein of course) and I’ve always felt they were a huge influence on Kurosawa, much more than the American film makers such as Ford who are commonly referenced. I’m afraid I’m not knowledgeable enough of the technicalities of film making to be able to say what exactly it is Kurosawa took from them, but there is a pace and narrative flow to early Russian films that I find has a resonance in 1950’s Kurosawa films. If I was to describe it, I’d say it was the combination of a very dynamic flow of editing and camera work combined with quite a low key realism in set and costume design.

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    Fred

    Thanks for the discussion so far. I did not mean to intimate that Kurosawa copied any stylistic elements from Tarkovsky. The connections between the two are listed in the links above and did not affect AK’s filmmaking. In fact, it may be the other way around: In his 1984 lectures at a workshop in Berlin, Tarkovsky specifically mentioned the “lost in the wood/fog scene” in Throne of blood and one of the last scenes (body covered by mud which is washed away by rain) in Seven Samurai, emphasizing their transcendental qualities (Source: Tarkovsky, Nathan Dunne (ed.), Black Dog Publishing, London [UK]).

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    Vili Maunula

    I think that there indeed was something like mutual admiration going on between Kurosawa and Tarkovsky. In one of the articles on the Nostalghia website, Kurosawa writes: “Tarkovsky told me that he always sees Seven Samurai before shooting his new films. This is to say that I always see his Andrei Rublov before shooting.” He later adds: “I always felt as if he was my younger brother”.

    I think that it also says something that when Kurosawa filmed Dersu Uzala in Russia, he employed Lyudmila Feiginova as his assistant editor. Feiginova was Tarkovsky’s regular editor — she cut all but the last two of Tarkovsky films.

    The works of the two directors are quite different of course, but at the same time the underlying themes are, I think, quite similar in the end. I really like the articles by Kurosawa on the Nostalgia website that you linked to, Neko-suki. It’s been a while since I last read them. They remind me that I should really get the Japanese book these articles come from.

    My own relationship with Solaris is mixed. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the film in years, but I have somehow never warmed to it. I really like Lem’s book (which I read only recently), and I also liked Soderbergh’s adaptation of it. But Tarkovsky’s Solaris… well, I think I need to watch it again one day.

    I have, in fact, for a while now been wanting to watch all of Tarkovsky’s films again. We have the Artificial Eye box set of Tarkovsky’s works (I bought it as a gift for my wife), but we haven’t really unwrapped it yet, as we have both already seen all of his films, with the one exception being The Sacrifice which I, like you, have never watched. I’m saving it.

    My favourite from Tarkovsky is probably Ivan’s Childhood. I find it very powerful every time I see it. Andrei Rublev and Stalker are big favourites too, although I can understand Coco’s comment about the former being a little impenetrable at times. I really don’t know why I have never liked Solaris, despite having given it a couple of tries. I think I really need to find the time to watch it yet again one of these days. Especially since now that I think of it, I probably haven’t seen it from a clean DVD copy yet — it’s always been either a poor VHS copy or an almost equally poor copy on the big screen.

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    Fred

    Hi Vili Maunula,

    thanks for your input on the Tarkovsky / Kurosawa relationship.

    I really like Lem’s book (which I read only recently), and I also liked Soderbergh’s adaptation of it. But Tarkovsky’s Solaris…

    Had you read the book when you saw the film for the first time? I like the book as well (I had read it before I watched the movie). IMHO Tarkovsky’s film and Lem’s novel are two distinct pieces of art. The points of view and messages are also quite different. Oversimplified, I’d say the novel asks the philosophical questions of how we might deal with a so far completely unknown form of intelligence (the ocean), Tarkovsky’s point is how we deal with the human condition (Kevin treats the second manifestation of Hari (=Rheya in the novel) with warmth; even Snout treats her like a human being (library scene), only Sartorius does not). Tarkovsky lets Hari “experience” Peter Bruegel the Elder’s painting “Winter”. Watching, we share that experience — one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen in any movie. The sound track is well matched to what Hari is seeing/imagining: Human voices, bells ringing, ravens cawing,… The entire library scene is underlined with the organ version of Bach’s “Jesus, Joy on Man’s desiring” (Kurosawa might have picked that music…). In the end, Kevin’s life on his home planet and his life on the Solaris space station are beginning to merge. I see this as a suggestion to experience life wherever it puts us and to show our humanity even in the most dire situations.

    … box set of Tarkovsky’s works (I bought it as a gift for my wife)…

    Nice — I’ve used that trick myself. 😉

    All the best,

    Fred

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    Vili Maunula

    Had you read the book when you saw the film for the first time?

    No, I hadn’t. The first time I saw Solaris was some 15 years ago, and I only read the book last year. Reading the book got me interested in watching Tarkovsky’s adaptation again, as well as the Soderbergh one. Maybe I’ll have a double feature one evening.

    … box set of Tarkovsky’s works (I bought it as a gift for my wife)…

    Nice — I’ve used that trick myself.

    😆 Actually, while I really like Tarkovsky’s films, my wife’s the real fan in this household.

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    Fred

    According to this source ,

    Kurosawa said, ‘I was a friend of Tarkvosky. Our friendship started during a visit to Moscow. …’

    More proof about the connection between Tarkovsky and AK in the Criterion forum, quoting information from the Nostalghia site mentioned in one of the posts above:

    Solyaris (Andrei tarkovsky, 1972): ‘We were very good friends. He was like a little brother for me. We once, drunk in Dom Kino, sang together ‘Shichinin no samurai’s theme music. His expression of ‘water’, the way in that water is depicted, is really peculiar to him. This picture indeed makes me feel myself yearning to return to the earth.’

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