Other films by Andrei Tarkovskiy: Andrei Rublev (1966), The Mirror (1975), Stalker (1979)
Based on a novel written by Stanis Lem, Solaris is a dangerous ride around the depths of a human’s mind using the ever so glorious medium of science fiction. Why dangerous? Because it bridges the gap between the pragmatic vision of the human emotion and the guilty truth behind the motives and intentions that triggers our actions. The script makes the film stand out best, and if you’re familiar with Russian literature, you can’t help but feel like reading a Russian novel while watching the film. It’s very experimental with the scenes, the expression and passion that you can feel with each character’s acting is that of pure human exertion and the cinematic style used by Tarkovsky makes you aware of the subtle beautiful details you won’t even be allowed to see in other mainstream movies. A great ride, could just use a little bit of better editing and thought regarding transitions video and audio editing and the film may be a larger masterpiece than it already is.
Directing: I think it’s pretty clear that the way the film was directed aims for a realistic presentation of science fiction. It is honestly creative but there are some moments that may have backfired regarding the perfection of some scenes. Like the car engine sound in the start—it shouldn’t have been heard that loudly. Nor was the initial greeting which didn’t cohere with the voices in the car which weren’t even heard.
Although the atmosphere that Tarkovsky has done for the film, with the logical and convincing dialogue that blends well with the absence of background music makes it very realistic, the interrogation scene with Burton was projected with the multiple different angles which makes it unconvincing; as if the interrogation scene was scripted, recorded and directed, instead of a one shot take. I think that a major flaw that Tarkovsky might have overlooked, or if it was intended, it didn’t really make sense to be performed that way. It would have helped if they showed the viewers watching it from the television set instead of an insertion of a different new screen whenever the interrogation tape was shown.
There were numerous long scenes that didn’t really gave relevant effect to the plot of the film but it did provide a feeling of realism concerning the ambience of the film’s setting and the different dispositions of the characters very much involved.
The second conversation with Snout was shot really well with the rotating angles and the continuous movements of both actors. Snout’s birthday conversation/celebration in the library counts as one of films greatest dialogue scenes. It was spiritually awakening and the scene that followed with the use of Bach’s music was pure talent.
Plot: The film made good use of science fiction as the central theme questions our intentions and our purpose. What are the uses of intellectual progress and the knowledge of truth when the human condition may actually just ask for something trivial, or something subjective?
The plot is an intelligent acquisition of a thought experiment that alien existence may actually be met by human senses, but the only meeting point occurs in such a way that the alien species must “copy” the human matter and eventually its mind/consciousness until it feels like a human. And in return, instead of being further astounded in discovering the mystery of alien existence, the human merely gets attracted and contented with experiencing human affection—ironically, with an alien being.
The speech given by Snout during his birthday celebration in the library was extremely moving, awakening, and thrilling. It raises a lot of questions and realizations about the human condition. What humanity, qualia, experience, purpose and the fundamental reasons of our actions and intentions really are.
Characters/Acting: Natalia Bondarchuk’s overall acting as Hari especially during her resurrection was incredible and an unbelievable performance. The whole crew deserves recognition for being convincing as well.
Dr. Kelvin’s initial conversation with Snout was highly interesting. You can imagine having known the latter’s personalist and how Solaris has changed his overall character. You can sense some kind of new consciousness which has taken over him, without forcing it to himself. Most people have that sense of attitude when having adapted to a new world or a new outlook in life.
Score: Simple beautiful, realistic, and classical.