Sunday, November 11, 2012

#818. Solaris (1972) - The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky

Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky

Starring: Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis and Jüri Järvetbr />

Trivia:  Writer Stanislaw Lem was critical of this adaptation of his novel, complaining that he didn't write about people's "erotic problems in space."

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, a 1972 sci-fi / mystery set aboard an orbiting space station, is a haunting, dramatic look at what it is that makes us human.

Three scientists on board the Solairs Space Station have been sending bizarre transmissions back to earth, and psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatis Banionis) is sent to investigate. Upon his arrival, he learns one of the scientists, his good friend Dr. Gabrarian (Sos Sarkisyan), has killed himself, and only Drs. Snauth (Juri Jarvet) and Sartorius (Anatoli Solonitsyn) remain.

They inform Kelvin that the planet Solaris has been active as of late, and may be causing a phenomenon that science cannot explain. At first skeptical, Kelvin himself realizes something strange is afoot when his late wife, Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk), who committed suicide ten year earlier, suddenly appears aboard the station.

Kelvin now must deal not only with the mysterious powers of the planet Solaris, but his own past as well, including the mistakes that led to his wife’s death. Is Hari’s presence just a figment of his own psyche, his own regrets? Or is this finally the chance at redemption he has been longing for?

Andrei Tarkovsky was a meticulous filmmaker, a director who took his time and favored imagery over dialogue. In Solaris, we get many such moments, including Kelvin’s arrival at the station, where we follow along as he tours what has become a run-down, desolate vessel. Emphasizing the loneliness of space, this entire sequence is comprised of long, sustained shots, mostly playing out in silence. Tarkovsky’s camera lingers in this and nearly every other scene of Solaris, taking in all that surrounds it, and setting a tone that is simultaneously observant and ominous.

The Solaris station, which, at first glance, looks like a floating pile of junk, is hiding an astonishing secret that is downright torturous for those left to deal with it. As Kelvin struggles with his past, Hari searches for proof of her own existence. Dr. Sartorius warns Kris not to get emotionally attached to Hari, who, he says, is only a reproduction, an image created by the planet based on Kris’ own memories of his wife. As for Hari, she seems fully aware that she is, indeed, only a copy, yet recalls moments from her's and Kris's history together, and harbors the same feelings, the same emotional trauma as the actual Hari. Are these emotions and memories enough to prove this Hari is, in fact, a living, breathing person? If not, what more is required?

These are the questions Tarkovsky poses throughout Solaris, a motion picture that pushes the concepts of humanity, consciousness, and man’s need for love to the forefront. Wonderfully poetic, Solaris is unlike any science fiction film I have ever seen before.


ThePopcornPreacher said...

Great review that sounds a lot like event horizon!

I was wondering have you seen the more recent version of Solaris, if so would you recommend it?

DVD Infatuation said...

@PopCornPreacher: Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, it does sound something like EVENT HORIZON!

I saw the remake once, in theaters back in 2002, and I really did like it. It contained many of the same concepts, but with a much more abbreviated translation. I'd say it's worth a watch.

The '72 original, however, is the definitive version!

Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to comment!