The Midnight Sky (2020)

Dersu Solaris

Films about filmmaking and internal narrative will always get poor reception among the general public. Nolan is able to straddle the line by delivering worldly action; that’s why his effects have to be so practical. But in general, when you make a film with this type of introspective power, and you are not prepared to cheat with distractions, what you have to do is maintain the highest standards in filmmaking in what you see. Then the filmmaking process has to get out of the way of the hidden yearning that drives the narrative.

The tradition always references Tarkovsky, who made the form accessible. To access his films as a first worlder requires us to enter through the perspective of the mix of Soviet yearning and denial, and that’s too much of a demand for most of us it seems. But he did make a film, Solaris (1972), that escapes that requirement by substituting a science fiction context. It had less visceral power than his others, because there is less of his personal life and motion. Solaris has the focus character as co-creator of what you see in a contract with the viewer and filmmaker. But that contract is fulfilled as it is negotiated.

Solaris and many in this tradition were influenced by 2001 (1968), where control over the narrative was played out on screen: would it be the men in the story representing reality, the machines who in those days were seen differently than today? Or the filmmaker/god. Kubrick’s ending is ambiguous, and has become more so today.

Soderbergh and Clooney remade Solaris in 2002 as one of their experiments in introspection. Both have such a commitment to filmmaking that they are prepared to burn audience goodwill and dollars in between blockbusters to advance their craft. Without this rare commitment, film dies. More, without our commitment as introspective viewers, film dies.

In another tradition, Kurosawa, in a creative crisis following a suicide attempt travelled to the Soviet Union to make a Tarkovsky film after the mould of Solaris. Dersu Uzala (1975) is set in the Arctic and uses the enveloping nature of snow as the screen volume on which the imagined story is projected.

Posted in 2022

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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