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Tarkovsky's Solaris and Why I Hate Academia

I've long heard about this movie. It managed to avoid my gaze, much like other similar foreign classics, which drag along, leading us down a familiar rode and then in those final minutes, dazzle us with a grand finale that captures our minds, our hearts and leaves us with a feeling of awe. Tarkovsky's Solaris leaves us with none of this, leading to my title. I should also add that I have gone over getting into each scene and honestly, it's not worth it, because the film is ninety percent filler and that is done intentionally. I also realize the twelve people who read this, don't want a twelve page essay, so this will be the truncated version of what I had intended on saying.

I cringe to think of pretentious college twits, babbling on about Freud, Jung and maybe these days, Ayn Rand. Anyone who knows anything about Tarkovsky (I admittedly, am just learning), know he wasn't big on symbolism and the dream-like universes he creates aren't dreams at all, but two or more different realities and many times one, just told from a different angle or perspective. There is such a desire to appear intelligent in this day and age, that everyone must find the most profound meaning in everything and this is what makes Solaris somewhat genius. In the end, it's a simple tale of man needing his reality to mirror his desires and when he realizes these desires, there is a strong feeling of guilt, shame and even defeat. The movie is simply stating, the more we find out about ourselves, the less comfortable we become.

While I have not read the book, it is obvious in the movie that one man's desire is to engage in pedophilia, but the shame in his innermost desires coming true, ruins him. There is another whose desires seem so shrouded in secrecy, that even his external life, becomes nothing more than a facade. The brave scientist wants for a child, but also to use science to destroy and in doing so, creates a child or creature that is a result of both these desires. Then there is Kris, who is so uninterested in anything, it almost pains him to care. He longs for his wife, but only that which he enjoyed about her. Her company and what we all want, to be loved. It's not profound and doesn't warrant a mental magnifying glass.

Here is how ridiculous academics are. They've written passages about the 20 minute driving scene in Tokyo, offering a variety of complex reasons for Tarkovsky's strange journey, never once listening to the man explain in real life that it was simply to justify his expensive permit. Tarkovsky himself notes that his use of water isn't to make some dream like, psychological metaphor, but simply because he likes it, wanting the viewer to remember the simple pleasures of nature's beauty. I admit it, I watch movies closely now too, because there are so many hidden messages, clues and symbols, that sometimes, especially with foreign films, I find myself spending hours reading about a countries fairytales and myths long after watching them. It is then that the world of the movie opens up, but in watching it blind, I appreciate it at face value, something Tarkovsky implored the viewer to do.

Reading letters, interviews and essays about his work and some others, you find that the mental elite, seems to be consumed by their big words and bigger egos. Needing to find things within that don't exist. They snicker at Dafoe's outstretched arms in Platoon, but had he not, they'd have nothing to speak of, most likely finding the film void of substance. Not living up to their own pretense. I remember recently watching As Above, So Below and reading college twits go on an on about the loose relation to Dante's Inferno. Yes, loose, as in a noose hanging around one's neck, strangling you with blatant symbolism. I remember a philosophy minor asking me if I had noticed the subtle references to Jesus in C.S. Lewis' character Aslan, to which I screamed "He's fucking Jesus. King of the Jungle, King of the Jews!" It's this kind of academic crap, which made and makes me hate "scholars." Sure, being well read affords you the luxury of taking things for granted, but it doesn't allow you any right to read into shit that isn't there and it doesn't mean every time you experience art, you need to delve into someone else's psychobabble. As we teachers tell toddlers who act out irrationally, "use YOUR words." Academics should try it and stop quoting someone smarter than they.

Solaris is a fine movie. It's about two hours too long and it's a simple story. Man in his desperate attempt to understand everything in the world, neglects understanding his own nature. When he himself is the alien and his desires are put in front of him, we realize that humans can't ever be happy with what we desire, because it never truly mirrors what we want. We want everything in life to be the way it is when it is perfect, for us only. Not how others view it, but us and us alone, but relationships don't have one view and there in lies the debate. Solaris vs Earth. Does Kris leave Solaris? Does he go back to earth? Was it a dream or was it reality? Does his moment with his father mimic Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son (see what I did here) or is it just a coincidence? It doesn't matter. It honestly doesn't, because it's science. It's the knowledge that the more we learn about the world, the less we know about ourselves and the more we want to know about ourselves and the hows and whys, the more we detach ourselves from living.

Lem, the original author said, "my book was called Solaris, not Erotic Problems in Space." His book was about the science of it. About how as we study something, it may be studying us. In the movie, as we study something else, it reflects back on us how little we know about ourselves. Tarkovsky's next movie is called Mirrors. He had another called Stalker. These could be called the Reflection Trilogy. His movies are all about how our desires aren't meant to be recognized, at least never in the way they are envisioned. That, his stories tell us, would be terrifying and out of this world. Science fiction, if you will. A genre he despises.


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