Saturday, March 14, 2015

549. Solyaris/Solaris (1972)

Running Time: 165 minutes
Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky
Written By: Fridrikh Gorenshtein, Andrei Tarkovsky, from novel by Stanislaw Lem
Main Cast: Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuk, Jun Jarvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky, Nikolai Grinko
Click here to view the trailer


So it looks like Tarkovsky Week is actually going to end up becoming Tarkovsky Month, as it's just taking an insane amount of time to get movies from Netflix nowadays. Add to that the fact that I'm barely watching any BOOK movies lately and filling up on other stuff and it's slow going. If all goes as planned, however, I'll knock out The Mirror by mid-week.

Most of you have probably heard of Solaris, even if it's because of the 2002 remake starring George Clooney. The film begins by introducing us to the characters and setting up the events that are to take place over the course of the next three hours. We meet Kris Kelvin (Banionis), a former accountant and current psychologist who is all set to travel to a space station that is orbiting Solaris, a planet consisting basically of one giant ocean. We also meet Burton, a scientist who once lived upon the space station and who was called back many years prior for exhibiting strange behavior. In newsreel like footage, we learn that Burton was brought in front of many other scientists who has a vested interest in the Solaris station to testify of what he saw while searching for two lost scientists. Burton testified that he saw a four meter tall child floating outside the window of the station, not to mention yellow sludge creeping out of the Solaris ocean. He basically becomes a laughing stock, despite being a friend of Kelvin's family. Kelvin will travel to the Solaris station the following morning, to decide whether or not the station should continue functioning or whether it should be shut down. Once there, Kelvin learns that of the three scientists residing on the station, one has committed suicide (Dr. Gibarian). Left are Dr. Snaut and Dr. Sartorious, whom both warn him to stay calm if he happens to see anything out of the ordinary. In fact, it doesn't take long and Kelvin does see something out of the ordinary - his wife, who had died many years before. We'll leave it at that...


This was all fine and a point. The idea is, obviously, a fantastic one. A planet that can read your mind and bring your fantasies/memories to fruition. I mean, that's genius, isn't it? The film looks great too and while Andrei Rublev was, sort of, an intimidating film due to it's stature and probably because it was my first Tarkovsky, this one was a more comfortable fit, for me personally. I loved the set design, the visual feasts and of course, the marvelous camera work, all working to accentuate this foreign idea on this foreign planet. It needed to look like something other worldly and it totally did. This was sci fi personified, the mother of all sci fi films and one that isn't that hard to get into, even if you're a sci fi hater (like me).

But, like I said, it's all good to a point. At about the time that the birthday party scene rolls around, it starts to get boring and that final hour or so was a tough one, I won't lie. By the time we got into the last twenty or so minutes, I was done and of the opinion that this just needed to end. What is it about these big sci fi films (I'm thinking this and 2001) that HAVE to be long? I really like 2001 (better than this, for the curious), but still admit that it's too long and COULD HAVE ended a little sooner. Solaris could've ended a LOT sooner and I wish it had. Had Tarkovsky and crew kept this film to right around one hundred minutes, hell even two hours, I probably would be lauding it as a masterpiece now. Pieces of classical music played over Kelvin and his wife staring at each other were doing nothing for me and ultimately, nothing was ever solved. In fact, there really wasn't an ending at all was there. Okay, sure, so Kelvin never gets off Solaris and instead simply THINKS he does, but is that really a suitable ending? Will Kelvin spend the rest of his life meeting multiple Hari's forever? Also, wouldn't it have been more appropriate if Kelvin and Hari were madly in love when she died on Earth? Instead, the back story is that they had actually separated and the marriage was basically null & void when she committed suicide. I don't know, maybe the fact that I'm asking all these questions is a good thing. Obviously the movie made me think and there's nothing wrong with that, ever. I could probably go for another viewing of this and I wouldn't be surprised if after two or three more watches, I was in love with this one. However, for now...

RATING: 6/10  Call it a '6' and definitely a "must see" which is as good a compliment as any, especially when you consider that there are movies in THE BOOK that I really like, that I might not particularly consider MUST SEE.


March 14, 2015  6:44pm


  1. A good review Andrew.. in fact possibly so good, I really don't think I can say anything else to add to the discussion.
    The sort of film I should have really liked .. slow, thoughtful, loaded with atmoshere.. But I'm afraid it did become something of a clock watcher.. (is it nearly over yet?).

    1. Wow, thanks. I actually thought this review wasn't that good. But I'm glad we're in agreement. I was hard pressed to find anyone who didn't like this.


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