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A list of the most memorable roles of the legendary Soviet actor & Tarkovsky’s favorite – Anatoly Solonitsyn.
Andrei Rublev (1966)
This might be the most significant work for both – Tarkovsky and Solonitsyn. It was a breakthrough movie for a then-unknown amateur actor from Sverdlovsk theatre. Solonitsyn was chosen for the role of the famous icon painter and relatively mythic figure of the 15th-century – Andrei Rublev. And what a role it was! He was a perfect fit for this movie that depicted the struggles that Russia had in the 15th-century. Internal conflicts between rival clans and Tatar invasions. You can feel that heavy and chaotic atmosphere throughout the movie. In the middle of this – there is the figure Rublev, wandering around, creating his famous artworks and trying to find himself.
There is one, final episode of the movie that shows the brilliance and dedication Solonitsyn had in his work. His character took a vow of silence and remained silent for several years. In the final episode, Rublev had to finally break the silence. Tarkovsky wanted to hear a hoarse and tired voice. To make this happen, he wanted the other actor to do the dubbing. Solonitsyn declined such idea and took a 3-month-long vow of silence by himself to get the voice Tarkovsky wanted to hear. He explained himself with gestures all these months and never said a word. Few days before filming, he took a step further and tightly pulled a scarf around his neck to block his vocal cords. It caused weakness, headache, but the end result was exactly how the actor & director expected.
An actor cannot ask for a better debut work and Solonitsyn’s performance was 10 out of 10. No wonder that Andrei Rublev is still regarded by critics and other directors as one of the best movies ever.
The Train Has Stopped (1982)
One of the last works of Anatoly Solonitsyn. What is interesting and impressive in this movie is the fact that Solonitsyn and Oleg Borisov, who played the leading role in this movie – they both were seriously ill at that time. Solonitsyn was battling lung cancer, but when you watch the movie, this fact goes unnoticed. Both actors showed a truly manly character and went through the filming process like true professionals.
Despite the fact that the movie showed the bad side of Soviet reality – negligence, this movie is truly timeless. It will always remain actual. In any era, in any country and even in 2018, there are plenty of people, who do not follow the instructions and it leads to tragic consequences. You cannot really change that.
Borisov plays an investigator, who needs to find the answer – who is to blame for the death of the train driver in the accident. Solonitsyn plays a journalist, who writes a praising article about the sacrifice and the heroic actions of the train driver. And there comes the dispute. One man has to dig the truth and discover some unpleasant facts, while others do not agree with his views. Investigator believes that there should be punishment for such negligence. Journalist disagrees and feels that people in the Soviet Union have seen enough punishment and pain. Both of them have some truth in their beliefs and it is hard to tell who is right and who is wrong.
Twenty Six Days From The Life Of Dostoevsky (1980)
Relatively short, but very atmospheric drama movie about a period of struggle in the life of the famous Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. The film shows the figure of Dostoevsky from the human side. He is not portrayed as a confident and beloved genius that is working on his newest novel. It is the opposite. He has a deadline to finish his novel; he just lost his wife and brother. Add to this financial problem and uneasy relationships with his stepson and you have plenty of struggle to deal with.
However, there is a light at the end of a tunnel. The 20-year stenographer Anna Snitkina, who helped Dostoevsky to complete The Gambler novel in time. She had a significant role in the life of the famous writer. Their work relationships turned into romance and just a year later – they got married.
Solonitsyn was a great choice by the director to portray Dostoevsky. He naturally looked similar to his hero and his manners brilliantly depicted the period of struggle and chaos in the life of the great Russian writer. His efforts were rewarded in 1981 when Solonitsyn won the Silver Bear for Best Actor in the 31st Berlin International Film Festival.
Interesting fact: one of Solonitsyn’s dreams was to play the role of Dostoyevsky and he was even ready to agree to the plastic surgery to look more like a famous writer. Tarkovsky was shocked by such an idea and said: «Then you won’t be able to play other roles with the face of Fyodor Mikhailovich!» Solonitsyn calmly responded to this: Solonitsyn calmly responded: «If I could play Dostoyevsky, why should I play anyone else?»
This movie is a unique one, and probably – the hardest one to describe. You can watch it several times and each one will bring some new impressions and views on the idea and meaning of Stalker. A deeply philosophical movie shows some obvious mental struggles the human nature has. A spiritual journey that presents you with many existential questions. It might lack action, but you feel the nerve and tension. The Zone – this mystic area. You do not really know what to expect there. At some moments, it feels like some kind of thriller or a horror movie. There is a feeling that something terrible might happen to the heroes of the movie.
One of the central figures – Stalker, the guide who brings The Professor and The Writer (played by Solonitsyn) to this journey, has a very mixed attitude to The Zone and The Room that can fulfill the deepest desire of a person that enters it. His life is closely tied with this mystical area. Stalker fears and respects The Zone has faith and doubts about it. Contrasts and constant confusion. He leads other characters to help them find what they need, but there is a feeling that Stalker is the one who needs fulfill his desires and find the answers to the questions that cannot be answered. He is confused. Or maybe simply disappointed that no one really cares and believes to The Zone as he does?
Solonitsyn was very interesting to watch in this cynically thoughtful role of The Writer. Brilliant work. However, this movie had a terrifying impact on his life. Solonitsyn, Tarkovsky and his wife Larisa – they all died from the same disease – lung cancer, caused by the poisoning from the chemical plant that was nearby the location where Stalker was filmed. It is tragic but very symbolic. Stalker left such a powerful legacy and an honorable place in the history of cinema but took away the most important its creators had. You can find some mysticism in this.
The Ascent (1977)
Even though Solonitsyn had a minor role of the collaborationist interrogator in this movie, he turned it into a charismatic and memorable one.
Overall, the movie is powerful. It is about World War II and two Soviet partisans in Belarus, who were caught by the Germans. As you might know, Soviets/Russians are far by the best when it comes about making movies about war. The Ascent shows the inner battles of partisans. You can feel the desperation around them. One of them wants to remain loyal to his values and better die than become a traitor. The other one initially was not afraid to face the enemy and did everything he could to rescue his comrade, eventually is desperate to save his own life. He wants to live no matter what and at the same time – he understands that if he becomes a traitor, it will haunt him forever. Uneasy choices in a very uneasy time.
You can clearly see some Christian allegories and considering that the film was made in the Soviet era, it was another sign of pure creativity to get it through the atheism-minded censorship. Nowadays it is easy to take the almost every topic you want and start to create something out of it. In the Soviet era, film directors always had some extra challenges against censorship and bureaucracy. However, The Ascent did not suffer from it. If you are a fan of war movies, you will enjoy it.