Monday, November 12, 2007


Solyaris; science-fiction drama, Russia, 1972; D: Andrei Tarkovsky, S: Donatas Banionis, Nikolai Grinko, Natalya Bondarchuk, Jüri Järvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky, Olga Barnet

Psychiatrist Kris Kelvin is having a walk in a farm and observing the nature. Inside the home, he observes together with his family a TV report about a space station orbiting around the water planet Solaris. One astronauts claims to have seen trees and a 15 foot tall child, so the scientists are debating if the whole planet is actually a brain that causes hallucinations on humans. Kelvin leaves to the station but finds only two scientists - the third killed himself. While sleeping, he hears strange noises and in the morning meets his dead wife whom he can't rid off neither with catapulting her out in the space. In the end, he starts living on an island on Solaris that looks exactly like his farm.

Legendary science-fiction film "Solaris", sometimes called a Russian answer to Kubrick's "A Space Odyssey" which wasn't especially liked by director Andrei Tarkovsky, an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's novel with the same title, is a fake masterwork. It differs a lot from similar films of the same genre, causing substantial critical acclaim that even resulted in the Grand Prize of the Jury in Cannes. The voyage of the hero, psychologist Kelvin, from Earth to a space station around the planet Solaris is a huge symbol, larger than most sci-fi stories since it may be interpreted as individuals abandoning their homeland for a "promised land", or an oasis of escapism to a fantasy world, especially since the planet fulfills every wish, but Tarkovsky avoided a political subtext and broke the cliches by filming it practically entirely without special effects - the only (!) special effects shot in the entire film is a long take showing the space station. Not to mention that he avoided the mainstream expectations further with black and white photography of the TV reports and dreams. But although as enigmatic and esoteric as the "Odyssey", "Solaris" is never as brilliant since it becomes boring after 160 minutes of running time, equipped with a lengthy traffic sequence near the start, and it has little details, some of the best are paper bands on the ventilation shaft of the space station whispering like the leaves, which are so wonderful that they seem like a drop on a dry stone. Even though this is a cult film, the main hero is one-dimensional and the imaginative plot concept about granting every wish offered a lot more potentials than just the sole, unimaginative appearance of his dead wife.


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