It is always a pleasure when unique indie projects like Polaris end up gracing my inbox. Being one of the unwashed masses (a film student/filmmaker) it goes without saying that I am a bit of a film nerd – so, when I receive a comic that lovingly mocks Tarkovsky’s Solaris (which is a film I love, btw) in the spirited, jocular voice of Woody Allen (who is a genius man-child which I love, btw) then it’s pretty much my sacred duty to help bring attention to the project.
Click through to read my thoughts on this unique creator-owned work!
Felix Kiner is the man responsible for all of this, he being both artist and writer of the book. Polaris is a short graphic novel about Izrael Morganfriedman, a professor of International Cinema at NYU. The book opens as Izrael is screening the film Polaris for his class. For the unfamiliar this is a spoof of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, Solaris, which concerns a group of astronauts aboard a space station who all succumb to crippling hallucinations and emotional distress. These crises are existential in nature and the hallucinations which the real film’s protagonist conjures, specifically those of his dead wife, are quite enjoyably satirized in a few, succinct panels in Polaris.
Thankfully, Kiner does not hang his hat on this one series of jokes (enjoyable as they are) and soon moves forward with the real narrative of the book. You see, Izrael has an ex-girlfriend, Angela, in town, one which causes himself, and his family, much duress. When Izrael is informed of Angela’s arrival in town he has a great Oedipus Wrecks / Purple Rose of Cairo moment when his Mother (and subsequent family members) start appearing up on the screen, interacting with the meta-fictional characters of the film Polaris and the fictional characters of the book Polaris.
We learn that due to their tumultuous relationship, Izrael suffered what all refer to as “an incident” – I won’t spoil the “incident” for readers – yet it seems sufficient in its gravity to warrant all the consternation his family so easily exudes at the mention of Angela.
This sets Izrael’s mind sifting back through the memories of how he and Angela met (both campaigning for Obama) and how their relationship eventually deteriorated. This is where the book stops being an all-out comedy and verges into true Allen territory wherein we’re treated to the continued comedic underpinnings of the character’s and the story, yet we also verge into some genuine emotional rapport between the couple and eventually into Izrael’s emotional confusion as the girl slips away.
Much like Tarkovsky’s Solaris, this is the story of a man haunted by a lost past and tortured by the desire to feel the way he felt during those original embraces when his past love was vibrant and all-encompassing – a man who eventually accepts delusions as truth only because he so desires peace and emotional comfort in a world that’s totally out of his control – and also, much like Allen’s infamous Alvy Singer, Izrael decides to pick up the phone because, well… he needs the eggs.
Polaris currently has a Kickstarter campaign running – it’s already reached its goal, but I suggest you go and donate a bit anyway, because even at the lowest donation amount you get a signed physical copy of Polaris, a digital version, and the warm fuzzy’s because you just supported independent art.
Polaris is definitely worth your time and attention; it’s full of humor, emotion and turns out to be rather poignant. Good work, Mr. Kiner.