On Solaris and Tarkovsky
Madan Gopal Singh
B^hm the context of Russian film-making Andrei Tarkovsky takes us back to history: not in a returnable sense, not on an axis of historical exteriority, but back in a sense of radical convergence, of movements evolving towards a moment. Back to history, therefore, not merely as a general, all encompassing idea, but quite specifically within a dual context of the 19th and 20th century Russia. Back to history that operates as a specific 'absence'! This 'absence5, then, is the site wherein one may locate the artist.
It is in the midst of this specifically Russian context—a context marked by intense polemical activity and political struggle—that Tarkovsky's cinema stands, silently. It seems not to refer to, nor even remember, the high drama that took place between the proponents of Russia's development along the European bourgeois road and the advocates of the autocratic feudal system. (The debate initiated by Raznochinsky or the middle class Westernizers against the Sl^ivophiles) Much else was happening: the dramatic rise of the middle class intelligentasia, the final eclipse of aristocracy; changing modes of production bringing in their wake incredible changes in social relations. Closely linked to this entire struggle was the question of knowledge, and of the right to knowledge. This debate that swept the whole of Russia, rather violently opened a window on Europe. The intelligentsia had now to contend against the question of its highly problematic relationship with the entire Western thought. For, whereas in the West, the classical philosophy had come to its logical end, the Russian intelligentsia had to come to terms not only with the contemporary European thought but also with the pre-and post-renaissance modes of thinking. While being grounded in their own peculiar experience, they were panning over a
Journal of Arts and Ideas 69