Sculpting in Time

Criterion Files

Andrei Tarkovsky was openly dissatisfied with his Solaris (1972), even though it has endured as perhaps the master’s best-known work, because he felt he didn’t successfully “transcend” the science-fiction genre as he later claimed he would seven years later with Stalker, a film that truly has few directly identifiable ties with the genre it purportedly emerged from. But knowing Tarkovsky, “transcending the genre” here doesn’t mean new interpretations of a familiar formula, but rather implies that Tarkovsky didn’t felt he accomplished what he sought to do in each of his works: make cinema a high art form comparable with the other arts. I respectfully disagree with Tarkovsky’s assessment of his own work. In fact, it is the clearly identifiable ties that Solaris has with its genre that helps the film achieve a specifically Tarkovskyan transcendence. While the filmmaker has a gesamtkunstwerk-approach to elevating cinema as an art form by integrating other great works of art into this work of art (an aspect especially apparent here in the film’s library scene), in Solaris Tarkovsky palpably struggles with the legacy of the genre he’s working in, and in doing so, copes with cinema’s own artistic language while putting forth a unique aesthetic that can singularly be experienced in cinema: the controlled experience of time.

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Despite having only made seven feature films, Andrei Tarkovsky is largely considered one of the most important Russian filmmakers of the twentieth century, perhaps second only to Sergei Eisenstein (who was, aesthetically-speaking, his polar opposite). However, after enduring enormous troubles with Soviet censors, Tarkovsky expatriated to Italy, where he made his sixth film Nostalghia (1983) and later to Sweden where he made The Sacrifice (1986), which became his final film as he succumbed to lung cancer shortly after its production. Earlier this summer, one of Tarkovsky’s most beloved titles, Solaris (1972), was updated to Blu-ray by Criterion, and now Kino has updated their DVD of The Sacrifice to Blu as well, making this summer something of an embarrassment of riches for American Tarkovsky fans who have longed to see the filmmaker’s intricately beautiful work in high-definition.

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cultwarrior-slow

Some movies are meant to be slow. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Slow can be beautiful.

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