Archive for August, 2009


August 19, 2009

Learn EnglishThe poster in the Kyiv metro promotes services of a school of English: LEARN ENGLISH – ONCE AND FOR ALL. It’s nothing but an advertizing decoy. I’ve been in English for about half a century – including the last 43 years of my professional involvement (teaching and translation). So, with some authority I can claim that it’s not “once” but rather “permanently”.

As regards the “perpetual” knowledge of a foreign tongue, I recall the time when – as a college student – I observed a teacher of English who was getting ready for a lesson in the teachers’ room. The lesson was to begin after a few minutes. The teacher was reading a text aloud repeating the same sentence several times – trying to achieve the proper melody and tunes. She was a teacher with a degree and had an experience of working with native English speakers as a translator.

You want to know my variant of an advertizing phrase on the poster? YOU RIDE IT AS LONG AS LONG YOU WHIP IT.


August 18, 2009


First I saw the film in the winter of 1973. My future wife and I missed the beginning of it and were finding our way to the two vacant seats in the darkness of the cinema hall. On the screen speedy cars were roaring through the streets of a super-modern city. Later in the reviews I read that the futuristic city was, in real fact, Tokyo.

Yesterday I watched SOLARIS for the second time. On a portable DVD-player which in 1973 would probably have looked like an object from a sci-fi movie. Now the film was for me not about astrobiology and not about the breath-taking materialization of the astronauts’ memories as the intelligent Ocean was examining the thoughts of those astronauts. Of course, in those days I was quite well-versed in science-fiction to understand the earthly problems behind the tumbles of the plot. However, at that time the problems were on the periphery of the young man’s mind who was thinking of a career in linguistic research (in perspective) and a forthcoming marriage (over the shorter term). Yesterday Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS was about the Prodigal Son returning home. (Kris Kelvin, then main character, returned in good time to see his father, whom he otherwise might not have seen due to the time effects of traveling near speed of light). Yes, there is a time for every activity under heaven, I thought: for going into sterile, alienating space and for coming back to the green stalks of grass combed by the rippling stream. Do we need distant worlds? If we do, then only as a mirror to see ourselves better.

Yesterday the film was also about MY responsibility to handle my memories with care and love. It was about treasuring my past and reconsidering it in terms of the mistakes made. The past never leaves us. We have been formed by our past. Many things have been wrongly done – also in relation to other people. And I am thankful to the sci-fi trick which recreates images of the protagonists’ guilty conscience and enables the protagonists (and me as an empathetic reader) to “correct the past”, to wash away the guilt.  “Shame is the feeling that will save mankind” – although the sentence is pronounced only once, it is a veritable refrain throughout the film.

This time I also appreciated the film for letting me think along with it – as it was unfolding. It’s just the contrary of what you experience while watching present-day action movies on the television which give you no time “to stand and stare”.

And the actors… Donatas Banionis as Kris, Anatoliy Solonitsyn as Sartorius… also Nikolay Grinko (the father), Juri Jarvet (Snaut). And certainly Nataliya Bondarchuk, the daughter of the Ukrainian actor Sergei Bondarchuk, as the Wikipedia writes about her. In SOLARIS she “outshined everybody” – according to a note made by Andrei Tarkovski’s in his diary. It was the depth of their acting that brought the film the Grand Prix at the 1972 Cannes film Festival.

Frankly, I do not understand one thing only : should Sergei Bondarchuk – a creator of the “War and Peace”, a person who worked and lived all his life in Russia — be qualified as a “Ukrainian actor” for a mere fact of his being born in a Ukrainian village? On the other hand, I must admit that the reference to Sergei Bondarchuk’s Ukrainian roots is pleasing to me as a Ukrainian :-). However, it is another story to be told some other time.

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