Have you ever watched Andrei Tarkovsky’s brilliant 1972 Russian science fiction film, Solaris? Well, you should. It’s long and it moves at its own leisure, but you’ll be richly rewarded with an unforgettable cinematic experience. When I was a kid I was a huge fan of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. So when I went to see this film I was very cranky about it because it just didn’t have the same look as 2001. But Tarkovsky was not interested in spaceships or realistic zero gravity. He was looking for the soul. Solaris is a deeply emotional film that points the way toward a science fiction that does not rely on science or technology for its visuals. If you have seen the recent version of Solaris by Steven Soderbergh, you really should consider watching this one. Tarkovsky was not afraid to dismantle the normal narrative drive and pacing of the majority of Hollywood films. He allowed time to play itself out in his films. No scene was ever cut to spare an audience’s attention span. Soderbergh, for all his efforts to look independent, is completely at the mercy of the prevailing winds of Hollywood and makes every film to suit the intellectual capacities of a thirteen year old audience. This is usually apparent in the editing, not the writing. Hollywood filmmakers edit films as if they are flashcards for the slow learners. You can’t call yourself an independent filmmaker if you are really just a prostitute. Tarkovsky was, in spite of the constant oversight by the authoritarian Soviet government, a true unbending independent.
The film is an adaptation of the novel by the great Polish science fiction writer, Stanislaw Lem.
Russian animator Yura Boguslavsky made this film with children and adults in his animation workshop. It’s a lunatic and irrational story about a king with a wild beard and some very strange fish people who live in Cardboardia.
The film is in Russian but you absolutely do not need to know Russian to enjoy it! Unfortunately, I can’t find the entire film, only these three excerpts.
Pavel Klushantsev’s 1957 film, Road to the Stars, features astoundingly realistic special effects that were an inspiration and obvious blueprint for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey ten years later. The film is an extended form of science education, building upon existing 1950s technology to predict space exploration of the future. The sequences with astronauts in zero gravity are incredibly realistic. The second excerpt from the film features the construction of and life aboard a space station in earth orbit that is not only convincing but also beautiful. There are several scenes with space station dwellers using videophones that anticipate the famous Kubrick videophone scene.
Paul Gallagher at Dangerous Minds posted this 1924 Russian propaganda masterpiece. It’s a wild, science fiction, abstract work of art that just keeps pumping out wondrous images, one after the other. I love the ragged edges and mix of photographs, hand-drawn animation and cutouts.
A 1913 stop-motion film produced by the Russian Khanzhonkov Company and directed by Vladislav Starevich. Gorgeous. Look at how expressive Father Christmas is. He begins the tale as an ornament on a tree. He climbs down and makes his way into the forest.