Tarkovsky: A discussion of Solaris and Stalker

I donít quite remember where I had heard of him, but for a long time I have wanted to get into the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. Solaris and Stalker were at the top of my list. Hailed as being visually stunning and thought provoking, I thought Iíd give them a try.

These films require a great amount of patience. These are not easy films to get through in any way. Minutes will pass by without the camera moving and without any dialogue being spoken. These films are certainly not for everyone. There are many long silences throughout both films, but if you are invested in the film enough, these silences become welcomed. They present a moment where the viewer can stop and think about what has happened. These silences provide a time of quiet meditation, where the viewer has a chance to form their own ideas and opinions on what is going on. With both of these films, there isnít one certain direction that the viewer will take. Tarkovsky never says ďlook at this. This is what this film means, you should interpret it this way.Ē He lets the viewer interpret it his own way. And the possibilities are endless. There are so many different ways to look at both of these films. One can already tell that with each viewing, the film changes.

Tarkovsky does something magical with his films. He hypnotizes the viewer. While I could admit that Solaris was a very slow film, I can also admit that I could hardly take my eyes off of the screen. Stalker was the same way. The camera movement is astounding in both films. In Stalker, the camera moves slowly forward, showing each environment bit by bit. And when the camera stops, we get a chance to take everything in that is on screen. We get a chance to determine what we are looking at. In Solaris, the camera will often rotate around the room, showing something different with each turn. This is mesmerizing and creates a feeling of confusion and nausea. The viewer has no clue what is going on because what is in the room is constantly changing.

In both films, the use of color is essential. Tarkovsky switches from sepia to color multiple times in Stalker, and often even changes the colors of the shot as we are watching. In Solaris, the film will change from color to black and white in an instant without warning. This can greatly change the mood of the scenes and contributes to the overall feeling of confusion throughout the film.

Tarkovsky also rarely uses music to his advantage. Often times, filmmakers will rely on music to create the mood of the scene. But not Tarkovsky. Tarkovsky uses visual cues to create the overall moods of his films. Also, the use of music in films can be a way of forcing emotions on the viewer and making them view the scene a certain way. This could be another reason Tarkovsky rarely uses music. He doesnít want to evoke the emotions of the scene through music, but through visuals and dialogue. The viewers form their own opinions on the scenes and arenít influenced by music.

The one thing that stood out the most to me for both of these films is the mood and atmosphere they instill in the viewer. Very very rarely have I seen a film that creates such an amazing atmosphere as these films. It is truly magical. You can almost feel what the characters are feeling. It is completely and utterly indescribable. To understand, you would have to see the films yourself. Tarkovsky reminds me of the magical things that can be done with cinema and it is completely inspiring. It reminds me of the great things that can be done with this wonderful art form and inspires me even more to want to create art.

When a filmmaker can do that, then you know they are truly great.

Iíd now like to take some time to talk about the film Stalker and itís themes. Stalker is a beautiful and heartbreaking film that raises many questions about life, humanity, and the mysteries of the unknown. The main character, Stalker, is a tragic hero in a way. I also choose to believe that this film is from the perspective of this main character. In the beginning of the film, the film has a sepia color tone. The city that the characters live in is dirty and ugly, and this color tone only adds to this. It is a bleak world. And this is what Stalker sees. A colorless, filthy world. This is not his natural environment. This is not where he belongs. He is different from the others in his group. The first indication that Stalker is not the same is in the scene where writer is talking to a young girl by her car. There is a very noticeable line on the left side of the frame, and at one point this line separates Stalker from these two characters. In my opinion, this represents that these characters are very different from Stalker.

The color change in Stalker is very important. For the first 36 minutes or so of the film, the color is sepia. This is how Stalker views the world he lives in. A colorless and bleak world. But, once Stalker nears the Zone, the color changes. We now have full color. This is where Stalker feels at home. Out in nature, near the mystical Zone. This is where he thrives and is happy. Once here, Stalker lies down in a thick patch of plants and grass, embracing nature. He is not a man of machines or technology, he is a man of nature. Being a man of nature inherently makes him a man of mysticism. Stalker deeply believes in the powers at work in The Zone, and is the only one who truly understands this strange place. Not only does he understand The Zone, he loves it. It is a place of deep mystery and surrealism. A place where there is something spiritual. Stalker believes this place to be a place where hope lives. Hope for something out there, something beyond this world and beyond us. This is basically the only proof Stalker has of something beyond this world. Stalker is holding on to that last thread of hope. He hasnít succumbed to the cold, cynical world that surrounds him. This is where he differs from Writer and Professor. Eventually they give up on the zone and decide not to believe in itís power. Stalker begs them to reconsider and embrace it but they refuse. This is a source of great despair for Stalker. All he wanted to do was show these men something amazing and magical, and possibly restore a kind of faith and hope in them. He has failed his task, and it almost destroys him.

The way I see the film, Tarkovsky is trying to say that the mysticism and spirituality of the world is slowly dying. The cynical and technological world is taking over, and the men who still believe are outcast and are a dying breed. This is an extremely tragic notion, but this message holds a great resonance, especially today.

I will continue this discussion at some point soon, but Iíd just like to post what I have so far.
Through the darkness of future past
The magician longs to see
One chants out between two worlds:
Fire walk with me.