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Roadside Picnic

 
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Ian Moore
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2007 11:02 am    Post subject: Roadside Picnic Reply with quote

Possibly only of interest to Richard, this, but I just finished reading ROADSIDE PICNIC by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky (just re-released last month and going cheap on Amazon). It's a Russian Sci-fi novel and it's the story that Tarkovsky's film, STALKER, was based on. It's been interesting, cos I've also read, not too long ago, SOLARIS, by Stanislaw Lem, also famously turned into a film by Tarkovsky.

Where to begin? I should say that on the popular art/high art spectrum my preferences fall somewhere in the middle. These books were just right for me and I found them easier to enjoy than the films. Tarkovsky did an amazing job of recognising two deeply thoughtful books and then expanding on the existential themes in them by producing two very adult, atmospheric and artistic sci-fi films on minimal budgets. I'm definitely going to watch both films again, and I'm sure I'll be able to appreciate them much more, now my expectations have been adjusted.

But having read the books I find myself longing to see them realised as films again, but this time with suitable budgets and effects so that they can be more literal interpretations.

What I loved most about SOLARIS, by Lem, was the part that was missed out in both Solaris films. Lem describes the surface of the living ocean on Solaris in extended passages. The plasma of the ocean forms itself into vast and elaborate shapes that are taken straight from the consciousnesses of the human observers. Abstract buildings form, reproductions of a town that a character might have passed through once, the shape of a twelve foot baby wallows on the surface, writhing blindly. Despite being a vast consciousness, the planet of Solaris is utterly alien and there is no hope of meaningful contact between it and the humans. In this way Lem comments on the human condition. I think many people would find the book very dry and slow, and I have read reviews by hard core Lem fans who say the only available English translation is a poor representation of the original Polish version, but those passages really lingered in my mind and affected me in deep and strange ways.

In ROADSIDE PICNIC Earth has been visited by aliens who have now left, leaving strange artefacts behind, much as humans taking a picnic in a forest might leave behind food wrappers and empty drinks cans, etc. The Zones where the visitors landed are dangerous places to go because the artefacts have powerful effects on the physics of the environment. Men known as Stalkers risk their lives to go into the Zones illegally and bring back alien objects which they can then sell. Again, as in Solaris, there is this wonderful sense of alien inscrutability. We never get to understand what the visitors were doing, how their minds worked, what the real functions of the various artefacts were. It's all about the human failure to understand the nature of what is going on around them, and instead interpret events on a small, understandable and often petty scale.

For me both books were slow burners. Not wildly exciting to read at the time, but they continue to smolder away in my imagination. They're the kind of books that don't try to give you answers, but rather questions that you would not have asked before.
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RMCrookes
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2007 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had roadside picnic on order from amazon for months last year and finally gave up on it , so I'm hot footing it over there to get my order in right away.

I have read Stalker, and I know what you mean Ian, there are scenes missing but I feel the danger would be the special effects would take over and somehow make it a passive film. What I love about the films is that sense of mystery/unreality or maybe super reality which are never fully explained and really fire the imagination making it an active experience...

Quote:
They're the kind of books that don't try to give you answers, but rather questions that you would not have asked before.


The film scripts might prove interesting:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Andrei-Tarkovsky-Screenplays-Tarkovskii/dp/0571142664/ref=sr_1_14/202-4822470-6533444?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1173346675&sr=1-14

I've only read the first one - The steamroller and the violin - and must get round to stalker/solaris but it's fascinating and gets you inside Tarkovsky's head.
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Ian Moore
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2007 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I feel with Tarkovsky, that he took a slice out of each book, the aspect of each story that really appealed to him and inspired his own personal sense of wonder. Then he did an incredible job of realising that in film form.

But for me, there's so much still left untouched in those stories. I take your point about special effects. It would take a director with insight and a light touch, to ensure that the effects served the story rather than vice versa.

And I admit I do struggle with high art. My sister recently finished her art degree, she's very passionate on conceptual art, and an inspration to me. You can see, in some of the conversations we have, where our minds meet, where our interests overlap, yet we approach those areas from such very different perspectives. A lot of the time I think we're saying the exact same thing but using languages that are virtually foreign to each other. And in a way that seems to be one of the themes in these stories.
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RMCrookes
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2007 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I agree on all points there Ian. Having read his diaries and "Sculpting in Time', his is a very personal intuitive approach which I think is what makes the films so interesting.

I do have quite a problem with 'high' art - the majority of conceptual stuff leaves me at best bewildered and at worst incandescent. It's all so subjective and for me it must be about communication and also art with a small a (ie skill in crafting a work). Although T's films aren't easy, they clearly communicate to me a sense of wonder and beauty so therefore I seem to be able to cope with the difficulties they present.

I bet you wish you'd taped some of those conversations.
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opticalparadox
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2007 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Possibly only of interest to Richard, this"

Are you saying this rest of us are uncultured swines?...
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Ian Moore
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2007 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I bet you wish you'd taped some of those conversations." - Oh, I don't know about that. Sometimes I have to just focus on biting my tongue. I know what you mean about conceptual art making you incandescent sometimes. I'm happy for anybody and everybody to express whatever is important to them in whatever ways have meaning for them ... but sometimes ... I think it's reading the art critics that drives me closest to insanity. You know, you look at a piece of modern art, and then you read the bit of blurb next to it, and you try to reconcile the two ... and you know that somebody in this loop is dim as the inside of a sack of wallabies ... Smile

"Are you saying this rest of us are uncultured swines?..." - Well, Jen, what can I say? I wouldn't quite have put it like that, little piglet Very Happy But please, feel free to dive in and razzle dazzle us with a few well placed insights. (I actually just thought Richard was the only one around here who liked Tarkovsky, but I still think you should defend your honour - I want to see what it looks like when you do Very Happy)
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