In his 25-year career as a director, Andrei Tarkovsky only made seven films. We most certainly would’ve had more from the Russian filmmaker if he wasn’t taken us away from us at the young age of 54. Nevertheless, with nearly half of his filmography in The Criterion Collection, to say the director’s work has stood the test of time would be an understatement. His films are still being analyzed to this day as people around the world discover new reasons to hold his work in such high regard. One such person, a video essayist named Antonios Papantoniou, took Tarkovsky’s “Solaris” and broke down four specific scenes, analyzing how the director tells this story from a visual standpoint. And the manner in which Antonios chose to break down these scenes is pretty fascinating.
The essayist eschews using any form of voiceover narration and instead places text beside the scene, which basically tells us everything we need to know. As the scene plays on, the text identifies the type of shot being used, the camera angle, the camera movement, and even the duration of each shot. In between each scene breakdown, Antonios points out recurring visual motifs, such as the use of water, which helps to give us a clear sense of what Tarkovsky is trying to tell us, and how the slow rhythm, the meditative shots, and the careful editing help to enhance the philosophy behind “Solaris.” In other words, if you’re a fan of Tarkovsky, you need to stop what you’re doing and check this out. Since what you’re doing is reading this article, you probably have the time to view this 22-minute essay.
Really, anyone currently studying cinema (or who has an interest in studying the craft of cinema) would be doing themselves a favor by checking out this video essay. It’s very educational.