Barry Jenkins has kept busy in quarantine, as IndieWire learned during an Instagram live discussion with the Oscar-winning “Moonlight” filmmaker last month. He’s been sheltering with his partner, fellow filmmaker Lulu Wang, and continuing work on “The Underground Railroad” series as best he can remotely. He’s also busily devouring movies, just like the rest of us, and the filmmaker recently shared eight movies he recommends streaming during quarantine with The Atlantic’s David Sims.
Among his picks is Steven Soderbergh’s science-fiction film “Solaris,” adapted from the Stanislaw Lem novel, currently streaming on Starz. The misunderstood, 2002 romantic drama follows George Clooney as a psychologist who gets more than he bargained for when he’s sent to outer space.
“Though it’s a sci-fi movie, it’s about these very simple human emotions between Chris [Clooney] and his wife, Rheya [Natascha McElhone],” Jenkins said. “In one moment, I’m thinking about theoretical physics and the limitations of time, and in another moment I’m being taken back to some of the heaviest moments I’ve ever had in my personal relationships. I can’t say I’m good friends with Steven, but I know him, and when I need advice, I reach out and he always gets back to me. I own the shooting script of ‘Solaris’; it’s one of the few films he actually wrote, but he just will not talk about it! It’s a desert-island movie for me.”
Though Soderbergh’s “Solaris” was actually lifted straight from the novel, Andrei Tarkovsky also adapted the book in 1972 with his much longer version of the futuristic tale. So, it’s fitting that Jenkins recommends streaming Tarkovsky’s heady, dystopian “Stalker,” also on the Criterion Channel, a challenging film he said serves as an inspiration for “Underground Railroad.”
“I try not to watch things when I’m making something, but with ‘The Underground Railroad,’ that was hard, because 112 production days is, like, 10 damn months,” Jenkins said. “The only thing that I allowed myself to watch was ‘Stalker.’ I woke up early in production and thought, I need to watch ‘Stalker’ again. It’s the kind of movie that sits in the back of your head. I was shocked at how relevant that film was to the series we were making. I didn’t watch it every week, but I definitely watched it a few times over the course of production. We were shooting in the woods, in all different kinds of weather. The journey of Cora, the main character of ‘The Underground Railroad,’ reminds me quite a bit of the journey of the main character in ‘Stalker.’”
Jenkins also recommends Joachim Trier’s 2011 drug addiction drama “Oslo, August 31,” Robert Altman’s “The Company,” Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Selah and the Spades,” “Mid-August Lunch,” and “Train to Busan.” See the full list over at The Atlantic here.