I wanted to watch Solaris (2002) first but figured I better watch the original beforehand, just to see how each version measures up against the other, and because I'd heard the remake sucks. Don't they all? But I wanted to see for myself. It says on the picture above that Solaris is "Russia's answer to 2001" and it feels that way too, similar stories that are both needlessly long, painfully boring, yet occasionally challenging and stimulating to think about. People criticized Stanley Kubrick for his extremely long and drawn out shots in 2001 and Andrei Tarkovsky does the same thing in Solaris, although I think their motivations were different. Tarkovsky purposefully shot a 5-7 minute long scene of nothing more than traffic accompanied by a weird cacophony of sound, his reasoning? "this will drive the idiots out of the cinema".
I'm not sure that a director intentionally trying to alienate people from seeing his movie is the smartest move to make. Clearly, money was not his prerogative here, which is refreshing, but his reasoning was entirely supercilious. A wider audience may have learnt something had he been a little more patient and a little less arrogant with them. It's quite ironic to me that a movie about communication is intentionally being off-putting to the general audience. Nevertheless, Solaris is about a psychologist, Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) that goes to the Solaris space station to assess whether or not the space station should be allowed to continue their operation, despite lots of weird, erratic and inexplicable behavior coming from the crew lately.
When the psychologist Kris Kelvin arrives, he begins to be haunted, or rewarded with the company of his long dead wife once he arrives on Solaris. Haunted or rewarded? That's the million dollar question. With a simulacrum of his dead wife that's seemingly created by Solaris itself, but is it being done to torment Kris, or to please Kris, or is Kris doing it to himself, subconsciously? Now I have no doubt that Solaris is a philosophically profound movie, dealing with ontology and epistemology at its core, it was just turgid in its execution, and apparently that's how Tarkovsky wanted it.
The unexplainable 'guests' or the 'simulacrums' from Solaris had an interesting argument regarding how human they really were, for if they were merely a part of the human subconscious, a manifestation, then doesn't that, by extension, make them at least partly human? I don't know, there was a lot of complex themes going on and not a whole lot of patience to explore them or explain them properly. I understood the outcome of the movie well enough, but the planet Solaris itself remained a complete mystery to me, a little elucidation on the planet wouldn't have hurt.
Written by - The Sentry - 19/06/2015