Dyer in Zona talks about Tarkovsky's roving camera. He talks about the camera 'breathing'. It's true. Tarkovsky's camera is more like a living creature than an inanimate object. The machine that feels. We can never settle, just as the narrative never settles, caught up in the restless quest of its characters. It's a device that has been used in horror or suspense movies extensively, but rarely in drama. In horror it's clear that the intention of the roving camera is to put the viewer ill-at-ease, to subvert the feeling of security that the standard viewing position offers. But Tarkovsky does not appear to be out to unsettle us. Rather, he wants us to be aware of how 'real' the scene is. To fracture the assumed complicity of viewer and screen, in order to rebuild. Just as with 'reality' we can never be entirely sure what's going to come next, so within the world of Tarkovsky's camera. Don't blink. Because when you look up everything might have altered irredeemably, and you'll have missed the reason why.
Not that logic is necessarily the key factor in the sequence of events within a narrative adapted from a Stansislaw Lem novel. Some of the most entertaining dialogue occurs when the script starts to explain the apparitions in the spaceship. The 'real' characters, we are informed, are made of 'atoms', whereas the apparitions are made of 'neutrons'. So that's cleared that one up. Tarkovsky would appear to be escorting us into a zone where the rules of physics have become susceptible to unexplainable distortions. The search for a logical solution is spurious. The question is whether one chooses to go with the flow or resist it. A choice to be made by both spectators and characters.
I went with it. As Dyer’s book corroborates, reaction to Tarkovsky’s art is a highly personal affair. One can quite understand someone walking out at any point. It’s a reasonable response to a film that drifts and ebbs like a river, bringing to mind cinema seen through the lens of Heraclites rather than Ridley Scott. At some point the film wrapped me up in its dreams and I floated downriver with it, gravity-free, headed for the great ocean which contains another earth with its alternative philosophies. Like any journey downriver on a foreign planet (Apocalypse Now?), there are moments which drift, punctuated by moments that take your breath away. You would need to write a book, in the vein of Dyer, in order to begin to do justice to the power of this cinema, a few words here are but a frippery.