How terribly easy it would be to claim that Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris" is just a "2001: A Space Odyssey" wannabe. Yet, the two couldn't be more different. While Kubrick's film deals with an evolutionary stage of man, mixed with the imperfection of man-made minds; Tarkovsky's film is far less specific. It deals with humanity as a whole...and it's not the first film to do so.
Solaris is a star ship that is hovering over a large lake of yellow consciousness. Yes, that's right.
The Ocean of Solaris, a gelatinous planetoid object, is thought to have a mind of its own...naturally, humans then want to prove this by poking it with a very large, metaphorical stick. They are contemplating sending X-ray radiation down to the ocean to incite a response. If they don't get any response, they will also consider annihilation. It's not a very flattering view of science and mankind, but you can't exactly deny it either.
Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is a psychologist who is a Solarist...that is, he tracks the doings of the ship Solaris.
This ship and its findings have spawned its own following: politics, economics, ethics, and probably even religion.
Kelvin is going out to Solaris to find out what's being going on—he's being sent in so he can get a handle on the situation. What is the situation? No one really knows, which is why they're sending him out to the ship to find out.
Presumably, he is replacing one of the three scientists that man the ship, who died in unusual circumstances. If you, like me, are really, really hoping for an "Alien" type movie; prepare to be disappointed.
The entity that is The Ocean of Solaris can find ways to communicate with the ship, these methods are both frightening in concept and bizarrely mundane in execution.
Though the movie is broken up into two part, I sensed that there are actually three sections to the movie. The beginning is just the set-up, grounded firmly in reality and nature.
Kelvin is seen walking around a pond next to his house for the beginning scene...the scene also sets the mood for the entire movie.
Long shots with minimal dialogue...the entire movie long.
To say that the film is boring would be a gross understatement...it's tedious.
But it's also visually striking, one of the reasons that it's famous.
The second stage of the movie happens on the Solaris, where the absurd occurs. It's a little Burton-esque. Obviously, it stays true to itself.
The third stage of the movie deals with love and mankind...this is where the film states its point.
You would think that because "Solaris" has a protagonist who is a psychologist that there would be more psychology involved in the movie. Instead, we get science fiction, long shots, and philosophy.
It's kind of impossible to have science fiction without philosophy; but the movie completely discounts the main character's profession.
Supposedly, he is an expert in how the mind works...perhaps this is the reason that he is the one who makes the most irrational decisions (albeit, they turn out to be the rights ones in the end...maybe?).
I kept feeling like I was missing a very large part of the movie, but I didn't...it's just filmed that way.
It's not as brilliant (if I can use that word) as "2001" and not nearly half as exciting as any movie in its genre.
To those who love the movie: I can understand why.
To everyone else: "Solaris" is dry, dull, and frustrating. The few visual wonders of the screen don't make up for its long running time and its hasty judgments.
Imagine comparing "Solaris" with the recent "Elysium"...you couldn't even tell that they are in the same genre.
"Solaris" is an opus of a magnitude, it contains almost no score and little talking. But it lost my attention, near the beginning.
Ascetically pleasing doesn't not equal greatness. Sure, the last minute of the film negates the previous 165, but that only makes me angry.
I could have used that minute at the beginning, you can't throw in a last minute reveal that the film didn't need.
This might be one such film that I return to in twenty years and discover its hidden treasures and rewrite my entire review...but I wouldn't count on it.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones