This film is Andrey Tarkovskiy’s interpretation of the 1962 science fiction novel of the same title written by Polish author, Stainslaw Lem. I have neither read the novel nor have I seen the 2003 movie starring George Clooney, and after three hours of Russian morality questions, I have no desire to. This film would have been very interesting if it weren’t so darn drawn out. I’m not sure what it is about the space-exploration themed films of this time period, but they generally can stand to have about 40 minutes worth of footage trimmed from them. Movies like this one are a stunning example of the necessity of a theatrical cut.
With that being said, there was a visual quality to Tarkovskiy’s work that has to be praised. Many of those extraneous shots have an almost painterly quality to them, with stunning contrasts between color and pattern, and jaw dropping Russian beauties who stop to pose in front of scenic icy lakes and snow covered hillsides. All of these visual elements are reflected in the print of Bruegel’s “Hunters in the Snow” which is hung in space station office on Solaris. This painting, while visually reminiscent of the scenery of the film, also reiterates the thesis of Solaris with its human figures descending the hillside toward a town of shadowy figures, neither which can be identified as the focal point. Ultimately Solaris forces us to consider whether there is a difference between the “real” people in the story, and the sentient sea generated memory “visitors”. Both have very real emotions, and neither of them is really able to discern between dreams and reality. Insert existential answer here.
Despite all the pretty pictures in Solaris, and the important questions raised by the characters in the story, the thing was still too long.
(I wrote this review months ago, but wanted to remove it from Facebook. I may slowly move all of my other old reviews here as well.)