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I'm just starting out into the vast world of foreign film and having seen
this film on many a video store shelf, and knowing that it was considered a
sci-fi classic, I thought it would be a good way to spend an evening. Based
on the case I was expecting something along the line of typical American
sci-fi. Needless to say I was wrong.
I watched Solyaris twice in two days, because the first time I saw it I knew that I hadn't processed even a quarter of what I knew was there. I was taken completely aback. The second viewing was extremely rewarding.
It was unusual for me, raised as I was on the sledgehammer moralizing and we'll make our point so obvious that there's no way you can miss it because we have no respect for your intelligence way of American film. I'm a huge literature buff, and this was one of the very few films I've confronted that is thoughtful and has so many things to say yet does it in a literary or poetic fashion.
You will get out of this film what you bring to it. I've been to so many movies where the audience is not actually participating, it's being attacked. But true art is not domineering; it woos you.
So to sum up, I greatly appreciated Tarkovsky's unwillingness to manipulate the viewer. It showed that he had respect for me as a thinking soul, and it is this love and respect for humanity which makes this a truly great film.
This has to be one of the best science fiction movies ever produced. Not
because it's filled with gee-whiz gizmos or creepy aliens (it isn't) but
because it actually gives you something to think about besides "I wonder how
much they spent on *that* shot". When I was a kid, I used to love reading
sci-fi because it stimulated my imagination, but as I grew up (especially
once "Star Wars" came out), I found that it was harder and harder to find
anything remotely resembling imagination or mystery in the
Well, this movie has restored my faith in what is possible to achieve under the guise of "sci-fi" (obviously, it's older than "Star Wars", but I didn't see it until years later, when I had basically written off the whole idea of science fiction movies). I saw it 10-15 years ago when it was re-released in the USA and liked it then, but seeing it again recently has convinced me that this is an all-time classic. As I said, it actually stimulates thought (rare enough in most sci-fi movies), but on top of that, it has a real and profound emotional impact that's far beyond what you find in most "dramas", let alone "kid stuff" like sci-fi. If this movie is intended to be an "answer" to "2001" (I'm not convinced that it is), the main contrast is that "Solaris" concerns itself with real human emotions, whereas the most interesting character in "2001" is the computer.
For those who complain that it's boring, just go see something else. You'll obviously never get it. If the opening shot of water and plant life didn't tip you off to the fact that this movie is intentionally paced a little bit more deliberately than, say, "Buckaroo Banzai", then you should go out and try to get some sort of clue before watching this movie. It's not boring... it's SLOW. It's *meant* to be slow. Some of the scenes exist solely to set a mood, not to advance the plot. If you can't handle that, then this isn't the movie or you. But if you're able to sit still for 3 hours without squirming, and if you're able to enjoy a movie without having every idea spelled out in giant neon letters, then you just might like "Solaris", and find that it haunts you for years to come.
The thing that generally stands out most about this movie is that it is
long. Very long. And Russian. Very Russian.
It raises a lot of interesting questions about the nature of humanity, conscience, love, etc. which, honestly, I'd never thought to ask before, and don't care enough to answer now that they HAVE been asked. (Will Shame really save humanity? Who knows? Maybe. How will it do that? Haven't a clue. Now what's for lunch?) That's not to say I didn't like the movie. I did. It's very beautifully shot, such that I think it would be worth purchasing, even if I never sit through the whole thing again, just so that I can have scenes like "City of the Future" on hand as a reference for my own film-making endeavors.
Speaking of which: "City of the Future" is a very long scene consisting entirely of one character driving through the streets of Japan. It's supposed to look like, well, a city of the future, but to modern American audiences, it won't very much. It just looks like a guy driving his car through a series of tunnels, and past a series of skyscrapers, as day turns gradually into night. It goes on for five minutes.
But here's the thing, the paradox of this film: It didn't bother me that there is a five minute sequence consisting of nothing but shots of traffic. In fact, I loved it. It's an amazing scene, really quite beautiful in its own way. And a lot of the film is like that. It's slow and confusing, but still, it's never boring. Even once Kelvin gets aboard the Space Station, wherein 90% of the decor looks exactly the same. It's still fascinating to look at.
And the weird thing is, I can't figure out why. I mean, when I tried to watch 2001, another very long, beautifully shot movie set largely in space... I was bored literally to tears in the first 10 minutes, and had to shut it off. (No offense to fans of the film; I realize how incredibly crass I am for failing to recognize the genius of 2001. It's something I will just have to come to terms with on my own.) But for some reason, while watching Solaris, even when absolutely nothing was happening, I could not tear my eyes away. I have the strangest feeling that, if I were indeed to watch the movie again--without the subtitles--it could become one of my all-time favorites.
I don't know if I can recommend this film to others or not, because I have no idea if anyone else will share my sentiments. I don't know who will understand it and who won't, or who will even think it's worth trying to understand. There are, of course, some people who absolutely love it, and probably even some who understand it (or think they do), because... well, it's a classic, and a movie doesn't become a classic if nobody likes or understands it. But there are probably just as many people who hate it, because... well, it's a three-hour Russian movie.
At any rate, though, I think it's at least worth a look. If you find it boring, slow, incomprehensible, whatever... just turn it off. No big deal. But, on the other hand, if you find yourself inexplicably compelled to keep watching, unwilling or unable to tear yourself away for a single frame... well, then, you're welcome.
Two truths drive this film: the inadequacy of human-kind to understand the
Universe, and the inadequacy of human-kind to understand the human heart.
As such, using Lem's original idea, Tarkovsky successfully, explores these themes.
We are drawn in, through hauntingly beautiful imagery, to the internal struggles of Kris Kelvin as he attempts to understand feelings of love for his suicided wife, who has been mysteriously resurrected, presumably as an attempt by Solaris to communicate, or torture.
Of course Solaris is probably the most original alien ever concocted, (no phone-homes here) and as must be, utterly enigmatic and beyond communication.
Be warned, this film is very long, and sometimes slow, but for those who consider themselves science fiction addicts, it is a must view.
One of the top 5 sci-fi films of all time.
It's now been some years since I last watched it. Still, I can't get
rid of the impressions of emptiness, absurdity and impossibility to
understand (the world, and the human mind) that this movie left into
me. It can be violent to your mind, without showing a single violent
image (by the way, I often see this movie as a counterpart to Clockwork
Orange, even more than to 2001). It can stun you, with ten or twenty
minutes of incomprehensible silence. It can deprive you of any
certainty in the laws of nature - such as, people only die once - and
thus leave you vulnerable and naked.
I know that many friends to whom I've shown this move did not understand it. So I'm not saying you'll like it. But this is possibly the best (non-action) sci-fi movie ever made.
Watch it at night, alone, when everything out of your home is dark, silent, and cold.
This line from Dr Zhivago says all you have to know about Tarkovsky. He
was a thinker and a poet. An artist who's work was at once smart,
engaging and aesthetically beautiful! Solaris is a world that
materialized thoughts and absorbs creatures into its own consciousness.
"Solaris" is an allegory on man's place in the universe, the twisted
concept of reality, the meaning of love, grief and - ultimately - life.
Psychiatrist Kris Kelvin goes to the station orbiting the planet-entity
to assess whether the madness of it's occupants means all exploration
should be discontinued. What he finds there are all the demons he has
brought with him. You the viewer shall experience the same thing, for
Solaris is an inviting and questioning but never manipulative film.
What you'll get out of it depends on what you bring with you.
Solaris is often accused of being slow. This is a common misinterpretation: Solaris makes you anxious, and willingly so. Too many segments are like mirrors that invite your mind to venture off into many uncomfortable a place (the traffic scene comes to mind: an allegory for the space voyage but also for fading life and powerlessness). Solaris also makes you fear, with a sense that something isn't quite right and as with the best horror films, what you dread often isn't even on screen. Solaris makes you heart ache on several occasions as well. It makes you miss loved ones and it makes you feel homesick. every additional minute that separates you from the gorgeous opening shots of nature makes you long for Earth.
Solaris is many things but above all it is simply more than entertainment: it is a voyage for the senses, like a favorite song that binds countless disconnected feelings and thoughts. It is a poem.
Like the majority of reviewers here, I rate this film as one of the
most profound viewing experiences I can remember. While the IMDb
guidelines recommend avoiding reference to specific reviews of Solaris
within this section, I strongly believe that there is much to be learnt
about this movie by evaluating those reviews as a whole.
This is clearly either a love or a hate movie. Those who love it describe in detail its effect on them, the feelings it evokes, its significance and the depth of its philosophical enquiry. Those who hate it largely describe it as too slow-paced; boring.
What matters to me about this film which I first watched as mesmerised 15 year old is that it is almost entirely the antithesis of Classical Hollywood cinema. It came from behind the Iron Curtain (that dark place whose strange and hidden 'otherness' has, like the plot of any modern movie, now also been laid wide open by capitalist 'democracy'). Its actors were unknown - more like real people than the celebrities the West populates its movies with. Its pace was slow, mesmeric, hypnotic and atmospheric. It was completely free of the kind of 'good triumphs over evil' motif that riddles Hollywood film-making, where 'good' is white-ness, wealth, youth, Westernness and so on.
The pleasure of Solaris was that I didn't know what I was watching. I didn't know who I was watching. I didn't know the culture it reflected and - most importantly - I didn't know what was going to happen.
Perhaps its only in re-watching the 1971 Solaris that it becomes apparent to me that somewhere along the way we have been stripped of the right to not know; robbed of the true narrative thrill of being led into the dark, magical forest of the unknown.
If you compare this movie to the Lem's novel there are a lot of differences. But don't compare them. The novel and movie have their own lives. I personally prefer movie. Tarkovsky is going beyond the limits described by Lem. It is not only the problem of Solaris planet and the relationship between main heroes. Tarkovsky reminds everybody that the origin of our problem is us. And all kind of the most important life keys you can find inside yourselves. The great Swedish director Ingemar Bergman said, that Tarkovsky is in the "room" where I just started to knock. You should see this movie if you want to know what is real you and what you really want. The movie is not the answer, but it is the step to your new understanding of your life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the users in his/her comment to the 2002 adaptation of Lem's novel
said that this types of movies should be given a new rating, BRBV (or
Required Before Viewing).
Unfortunately, I have not seen the Sodebergh's version of "Solaris" (I'm pretty sure it can't beat this one, but, given what other people think about it, I can tell that it's worth seeing), but I can assure you that the same can be applied to this movie too.
Guys, it's not boring; it is SLOW. There's a huge difference between the two. Boring movies (Daredevil and Attack of the Clones, for instance) make you fall asleep, good slow movies make you think. If you are a kind of person that comes to movie theater just to see some blood and guts on the screen while chewing on buttery popcorn (popcorn eaters are, probably, my biggest pet peeve when it comes to going to the movies here, in the US - there's always some guy sitting right next to you, eating it so loud that you can't hear a darn thing...), this is not a movie for you. And as for those of you who don't fall into that category - well, you also have to be in the right mood for it. If you are constantly thinking about something important that you have to do or if there is a lot of people making a lot of noise around you - don't watch it; you're still going to like it, but you'll lose a lot. You have to concentrate on the movie, it should be the only thing on your mind. Just sit back and... no, not enjoy. Think. Then you'll enjoy it.
I am not going to restate the entire plot of the movie, for a lot of people have already done it. Instead, I'm going to try to give you a few clues about some confusing moments in the movie. (Yes, SPOILERS, if that's what you want to call them).
1) Oh, that "boring, boring, boring" car ride scene. Attention, popcorn lovers - this is not 21st century Moscow (in fact, it's never mentioned, where the "Earth" part of the movie takes place - it can be Japan as well...). This is not supposed to give you the insight of what the future is like. It is there for one simple reason - to show you that the astronaut in the car, as well as all other characters in the movie, has got nowhere to go. It's all just an endless road.
2) Seaweed - it just stands for nature, Earth, as the characters know it. It's there for a reason too, not just to bore the hell out of you.
3)The final scene - Kris is not on Earth. He's on Solaris. He himself is a part of the planet's giant "thinking" Ocean now, just like Harey was.
Once again - forget about this movie if you like action the most. Go watch Daredevil or wait till the new Matrix comes out. For all others - watch it, it's a sure 10/10.
Haven't seen any other Tarkofsky. I hear that this is the film he is
least fond of. I intend to see more of him.
As some other reviewer said, I had the feeling through the first one hour or so that some scenes went on for too long, or seemed a bit unnecessary and that it was too slow for the message to clearly be presented. But after a while, the slow pacing DID have a positive impact on the context of the film and on the "dialogue" between the film and the viewer. Anyway, after its plain & simple beginning, when the "action" is taken to the space station things get more and more interesting. No spoon-feeding here, as well. If you want all the mysteries in a film to be solved and explained, then you might not wanna see this, because the film is up to the viewer to think and dive in deep. Anyway, it ended up satisfying and leaving one in thoughts.
I am so glad I got to see this fabulous thoughtful movie. It's full of nice visuals and context. A recommendation to all who are fed up with Hollywood crap - but even Hollywood geeks could find many in this, if they can tolerate with the slow pace...
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