Andrei Tarkovsky

Solyaris (1972)

The Criterion Collection cover of Solyaris (1972)

  • Born:  1932
  • Died:  1986
  • Rank:  82
  • Score:  522.70
  • Feature Films:  7
  • Best:  Ivan’s Childhood
  • Worst:  Stalker

Top 5 Films:

  1. Ivan’s Childhood – 1962
  2. Solyaris – 1972
  3. The Sacrifice – 1986
  4. The Mirror – 1975
  5. Nostalghia – 1983

Top 10 Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1963 – 4th – Ivan’s Childhood
  • 1976 – 4th – Solyaris
  • 1983 – 9th – The Mirror
  • 1986 – 10th – The Sacrifice

As stated in the last post, Tarkovsky is somewhat the opposite of Schlesinger.  Schlesinger won an Oscar, a BAFTA, the DGA, yet today his films are often ignored (he scored 7 points on the top 1000), whereas Tarkovsky was almost completely ignored by the various awards groups (one BAFTA foreign film nomination) except for Cannes and scored an amazing 55 points on the top 1000 with only 7 feature length films.

Often mentioned as the best Soviet director since Eisenstein, he had a hard time with his film career.  His first film, Ivan’s Childhood, was amazing and won a prize at Venice, but it took years before he made his follow up, Andrei Rublev (acclaimed by many, I find it to be good but not great).  He had a harder and harder time making his films, until he finally defected to the west in the mid 80’s, making his final film, The Sacrifice, in Sweden (not only with many Bergman collaborators, but also with the feel of a Bergman film) before dying later that year of cancer at the age of 54.

Tarkovsky is also one of those directors, like Amenabar who never made anything close to a bad film.  Even the film I have classified as his worst film (Stalker) is still a good film.  It’s just the weakest of his 7 films.

Solyaris – #4 film of 1976

Solyaris was released in 1972, but didn’t make its way to America until 1976, so I classify it was the other films of that year and it ranks only behind All the President’s Men, Taxi Driver and Network.   It was a year of deep, thoughtful films in the year between Jaws and Star Wars.

If proof was ever needed that Solyaris is a different kind of science fiction film from today’s films, just look at the remake.  The remake was fairly faithful to the original (and the novel), yet received horrible word of mouth and died at  the box office, because it was a slow, thoughtful meditative film rather than the typical explosions and guns science fiction film, and it got its mood from the original.

There are many who proclaim Solyaris as a Soviet response to 2001 and this is a pretty reasonable point of view.  While 2001 is all about cold thought and deep ponderings about existence, this film is actually all about emotion; how we deal with emotions past and present.   The main character is a psychologist sent to a spacecraft to deal with the problems that the crew seem to be having.  Once arriving, he must deal with the manifestation of his dead wife.  But the key aspect of her manifestation is that she is created from his memories.  And we are presented with an interesting question:  How much do you know someone?  Because it becomes clear (and more so in Soderbergh’s remake) that she is incomplete precisely because she does only come from his memories.  Anything he didn’t know, the other aspects of her are missing.  And it is that emotion, the connections between other people while not everything can ever be connected that run through the emotional core of this film.

Solyaris is a long, slow film.  But at the very center of it is a beating heart, one deeply filled with emotions that should resonate with us all.