Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Amsterdam Journal: Tarkovsky at the Eye Filmmuseum

photograph by Hallie Cohen
You may remember Andrei Tarkovsky as the creator of the first Solaris (1972) based upon the Stanislav Lem science fiction classic. Steven Soderbergh’s version from 2002 is the one most American audiences are familiar with. Tarkovsky’s adaptation is a brooding movie and like much of the director’s work difficult to watch due to his signature style which involved the dispensing away with classic narrative devices. It’s no wonder he was beloved by the greats of the modern cinema, Antonioni, Fellini and Kurosawa. Bergman praised him for understanding “life as a dream.” There are some very old and almost anachronistic things about Amsterdam (like hookers displaying themselves in windowed closets) but the current Tarkovsky exhibit at the Eye Filmmuseum is an example of how advanced the culture of this capital can be. This homage is an omnibus show in every sense of the word. Scenes from great works  are displayed on curved screens throughout the gallery and there’s a vertiginous centrifugal effect in seeing all these powerful films in a majestic ballet with each other. A scene from Andrei Rublev (1966), based on the life of the 15thcentury icon painter, is juxtaposed with a cut from Solaris. From the purely film historical point of view there’s footage of Orson Welles presenting Tarkovsky and Bresson best director awards at Cannes in l983 and there's one particularly affecting old-fashioned telegram to Tarkovsky (who died at the age of 54 in l986) from Fellini in 1978, when the Russian moviemaker took ill. “Un abbracio et un grand auguri,” were Fellini's words. Tarkovsky said, “Modern mass culture, aimed at the ‘consumer,’ the civilization of prosthetics, is crippling people’s souls, setting a barrier between man and the crucial questions of his existence, his consciousness of himself as a spiritual being.” The English writer Geoffrey Dyer devoted a whole book just to Stalker entitled Zona. The very ambition of the current show at the Eye is a paean to the breadth of Tarkovsky’s own project. He rejected the socialist realist dogma of the Stalin era, but he’s a little like early Marx since the subject is the alienation of man from the culture in which he lives. He once said, “There is no deeper more mysterious and more critical mystery than the mystery of our existence.”

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