Thursday 17 June 2010

Solaris (Solyaris) [1972]

-->Master Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky’s most famous work happened to be, unequivocally, Andrei Rublev; however, whenever speaks about his best film, Solaris too comes into the picture along with Stalker. Often compared with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the similarities between the two movies extended very little beyond the fact they were both sci-fi films with a major portion of their stories taking place in deep space. When the crew of a space station hovering above an ocean-covered planet called Solaris reports mysterious occurrences, a psychologist is sent there to investigate the situation there and report as to whether the programme is worth keeping alive any longer. However, unbeknownst of him, the ocean there has the unique ability to sense repressed memories and desires of humans, which for him takes the seemingly “human” form of his ravishingly beautiful wife who had killed herself seven years back. This deeply philosophical movie was a brooding meditation and a haunting treatise on such profound themes as memory, love, death, man’s unstoppable pursuit for knowledge and what entails to be human, raising a few disturbing questions on our very existence in the process. The generous length, languorous pacing with long moments of silence and philosophical deliberations however ensured that this wasn’t an easy watch by any stretch of imagination.


Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Genre: Drama/Sci-Fi/Existential Drama/Psychological Drama/Adventure
Language: Russian
Country: Russia (erstwhile Soviet Union)


Jani Laaksonen said...

A truly rewarding film. The ending of this film is one of my all-time favorites - memorable, beautiful.

Just Another Film Buff said...

2001 and Solaris: Two amazing films that keep getting better with the years. Both are journeys to infinity, one outward and one inward.

Shubhajit said...


Yes indeed. The ambiguous, open-ending did make it so much more memorable.

Shubhajit said...


That's a brilliant summation of the 2 exceptional films. Couldn't agree with you more. Thanks buddy.

blake said...

I find Andrei Rublev totally inaccessible. Even though I was a Russian major in university. Solaris on the other hand seems to be universally accessible. I loved it. I kind of want to see what Soderberg thought he was doing remaking it. But I probably never will.

The Mirror is probably my favorite Tarkovsky film though.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Blake. Well, this was my first tryst with Tarkovsky, but I would like to watch Andrei Rublev sometime. I'll look out for Mirror too. You were a Russian major in university? Wow!!!

Sam Juliano said...

This is probably my third-best of Tarkovsky's films, but that's like saying that A TALE OF TWO CITIES is my third favorite Dickens! His relatively meagre output is comprised of masterpieces, and while you rightly admit it isn't at all an easy watch, you brilliantly peel the gauze away to describe it's greatness here:

"This deeply philosophical movie is a brooding meditation and a haunting treatise on such profound themes as memory, love, death, man’s unstoppable pursuit for knowledge and what entails to be human, raising a few disturbing questions on our very existence in the process."

SOLARIS is a wholly hypnotic experience, that is also about reconciliation, and like THE SACRIFICE and ANDREI RUBLEV it's also about destructive interaction with his environment. Claustrophobia and disorganization brilliantly convey the turmoil at the space station.

Everytime I think of this film (and the Criterion DVD set is fantastic) I wonder why I have it narrowly behind ANDREI RUBLEV and THE MIRROR.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam for the generous words and your terrific appraisal of the film as well as for hinting at Tarkovsky's oeuvre, a director whose work, I gather, you appreciate a lot.

My understanding about Tarkovsky's limited yet distinguished filmography, unfortunately, is nebulous at best. After all, Solaris, howsoever brilliant might it be, can never fully define the Soviet auteur - at best it can reveal a few more of his encompassing traits and abilities. And that, this movie, certainly has.

So, if you had to do it again, in which order would you watch his films this time? Consider, you've already watched Solaris.

Sam Juliano said...

Shaubhajit, it is a toss-up for me between ANDREI RUBLEV and THE MIRROR to watch again as his greatest films, but SOLARIS, MY NAME IS IVAN, and THE SACRIFICE push close (the latter is very Bergmanesque) with STALKER and NOSTALGIA follwing behind (though each is still important).

Shubhajit said...

Thanks again Sam. You're a pal :)

Anonymous said...

I happen to love Soderbergh's version better. I'm sure that is an extremely unpopular direction to take. It may be the most underrated american movie of the last decade. Not sure if you've seen it yet Shubhajit but its definitely worth a viewing......M.Roca

Shubhajit said...

Unfortunately I haven't yet seen the Soderberg version, though I'm certainly not averse to seeing it, especially given that it comes with your recommendation. In fact, now that I've seen the more canonised version of Solaris, I should watch the so-called lesser American version too.