Solaris (1972)

Solaris or Солярис is the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky which is adapted from the novel Solaris by Stanisław Lem, this was remade by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney in 2002. Tarkovky’s film is often considered to be one of the greatest science fiction films ever made and is considered to be one of few sci-fi films that doesn’t seem anachronistic today.  Many critics point to this film being the like the 2001: A Space Odyssey in the Soviet bloc nations. Tarkovsky is/was a director from Russia I’ve watched a couple of his other films Mirror and Andrei Rublev and these along with Stalker are are all considered as some of the greatest films ever made. Solaris is also one of those film that many current directors are influenced by. To begin my biggest problem with the film is the pacing, it is a slow moving film, although this is nod to the novel which itself is complex and slow paced. Spoilers to follow.

The film begins with Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) visiting his parents before going up to the space station orbiting Solaris, an ocean planet. While at his parent’s his Dad’s friend Henri Berton (Vladislav Dvorzhetsky) a disgraced pilot who was on the station before he was removed after he claimed he saw a four-meter-tall child on the surface of the planet, this was though of as hallucination. However as the years have passed the other scientist began seeing things as well and Kris, a psychologist, is being sent up to bring everyone back home. The station only has a skeleton crew of three members however before Kris can arrive his friend Dr. Gibarian (Sos Sargsyan) kills himself, when Kris arrives there is not welcoming committee but he stumbles upon Dr. Snaut (Jüri Järvet)and Dr. Sartorius (Anatoli Solonitsyn). They don’t want to tell him much of anything telling him to rest the night and return afterwards. Yet Kris seems to be seeing other people on board the station in the corner of his eyes as well . While in Dr. Gibarian’s room Kris finds a message from the doctor which warns him about the station.  Kris is still confused and retires for the evening upon waking Kris finds his wife, Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk), in his room with him having no idea how she got there or where here is, this is troubling as Kris’s wife we learn died a decade ago. This first visitor Kris tricks into a escape pod and jettisons it out. Snaut is ready to talk and tells Kris that the visitors have been coming after they sent a strong X-ray beam onto the surface in a vain attempt to try to learn about the planet.

That evening Hari returns and Kris welcomes her with open arms. Hari starts to “feel more human” Snaut proposes that they beam Kris’s brainwave pattern to Solaris in hopes that it will understand the humans. The film has a wonderful philosophical debate/discussion on humankind. I find this to be the core of the film. Here is where the bulk of my favorite quotes come from. Dr. Snaut say “We don’t want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man! ” Another piece of dialogue that sticks out is when Dr. Snaut says ‘We’ve wasted time arguing. We’re losing our dignity and human character.” and Hari responds with “No. You’re human, each in your own way. That’s why you argue.” Finally, there is one when Kris says “The salvation of humanity is in its shame!”

Will shooting the planet with Kris Kelvin’s brainwaves do anything or could this film be a circle, you’ve got to take some time and watch the film to find out what all happens at the end. What makes us human. Now the film is available quite easily today so I would recommend that everyone check it out. Tarkovsky is one of those directors that everyone needs to watch at least once in their life. Sure, take a look at this science fiction film from Tarkovsky but I might change my mind after watching Stalker

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