January 2014 Blind Spot: Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)


This Blind Spot series, while I enjoy it when I can, is not going according to my plan. Being in my senior year, there are more things to do for school than usually and they are making me tired. I got to get my shit together. This shouldn’t be a burden, right?

Andrey Tarkovski’s Solaris was April’s Blind Spot for me. This marks my first viewing of a Russian film (shorts don’t count) and my first Tarkovski film. From what I’ve read this is considered his most accesible film, probably because of the science fiction aspect of the story. Well, if this is his most audience-friendly film than I don’t know what to think of the his other work. Is that really true?

Solaris is an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel of the same name about a psychologist named Kris Kelvin, played wonderfully by Donatas Banionis, who is sent to the space station near planet Solaris to evaluate the scientists studying the planet and the strange phenomenon that made them go mad. Once he arrives to Solaris, he starts to experience them too by having visions of his wife who died ten years ago, Hari, brought to life passionately by Natalya Bondarchuk.
Almost three hours long, Solaris seemed like the kind of film that would be hard to finish in one sitting however, time passed by faster than I thought. I mean, I’m never going to make popcorn for this film, but it wasn’t the chore I expected it to be mainly because of how beautiful it is to look at. I was impressed by how impeccable this film looked like for an European science fiction film from the 70’s. From the dreamy shots of the lake house to the futuristic atmosphere from the space station and the wonderfully creative images of Solaris’ ocean, Solaris is one of the most beautiful science fiction films and films in general I have seen so far. Even the unnecessary long drive scene is nice to look at. You can’t talk about this film without mentioning the visuals.
I’ve said it before, I’m a sucker for atmosphere and this film has plenty. I usually listen to Filmspotting after watching a film to see what the guys think of it. In one of their early shows when they were known as Cinecast, they discussed Solaris. They talked a lot about the feeling of dread that lingered through after the protagonist reached the space station. I felt that too, not as much as them, I didn’t think of creepiness instantly, more mystery, mostly because I didn’t expect to be scared by anything in this film. The fact that they didn’t show the other guests is the only thing that I could view as terrifying about this story.
At heart, Solaris is a tale of grief, lost love, life and death. At the end it has some interesting ideas about life and how we start to think of its purpose only when we’re unhappy which is very true.
The ending presents its message in a surreal manner, so it was not very easy to come up with an interpretation. After consulting with the Internet, I agree with the main idea (don’t want to steal other people’s opinions) that we as human beings will never know ourselves which explains the rain inside the house.
I try to watch every film as openly as possible so I’m glad this one stuck with me. You have to let it sink in for a while because it’s complex and difficult to interpret but once you get past that you will feel very happy to have seen it. If I get an interpretation or more than one (thinking of Mulholland Drive now) and if it makes sense, I like that film. This one definitely made sense. If you ever feel like watching something more different give Solaris a try. Poetic sci-fi is a rare subgenre, and this is one of the best entries.

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