I mean to check out this festival every year and usually end up missing it for whatever reasons, mostly procrastination. This year, I finally made it, catching two films over two weekends, something old and something new.
After watching Solaris, last Thursday friend and I were back at the Astor Theatre for more of Andrei Tarkovsky‘s meditative, arty, defiantly slow sci-fi. I love the story I read where, upon hearing from the officials at the State Committee for Cinematography that the film was too slow and dull, Tarkovsky’s reply was that the film “needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts”.
They’re showing a couple of Andrei Tarkovsky films at the Astor Theatre this month, so friend and I went to see this 1972 Soviet sci-fi classic. The pitch I made to my friend was, are you up for some slow and boring Russian sci-fi, an in-joke as we both appreciate slow-paced movies that are more about submerging yourself rather than going on a thrill ride. Solaris is definitely not for everybody and I saw a couple of walkouts in the cinema, but if you can surrender to its glacial pacing and penchant for ambiguity, it’s a rewarding experience and leaves you with much to think about.
I wanted to see this movie for a while but held out because, while things at work were super-stressful, I didn’t feel like watching a real downer. Mum and I watched it yesterday and yeah, it’s long, slow and depressing; things start out bad and then get worse, and worse. Then much worse. But it’s very well made.
It’s set in a small town in north-western Russia, near the Barents Sea, and it features some of the most starkly beautiful and mesmerising landscapes I’ve seen onscreen. The story follows Kolya, a mechanic who lives by the sea with his wife and son from the first marriage, and his struggle against the local mayor who wants to confiscate his land for development. I’ve read that the film was meant to be something like a loose reworking of the Book of Job (and Job even gets a mention), except that instead of struggling against God Kolya fights against the Russian state. Guess who wins.