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Solaris - Criterion Collection (1972)

Art House & International movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

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allegorical but very hard work for casual watchers

  • Apr 5, 2003
Rating:
-1
"Cineastes" are implored in a review below to lap up this film, and you'd need to be the sort of person who knew what a cineaste was for me to give you an unhestitating recommendation for this film; a mere film buff might it heavy going, and a member of the general movie-going public will find Solaris bamboozling, incoherent and as pretentious as hell.

Now if you are prepared to spend three hours analysing in close detail what the significance to the figurative scheme might be of small actions - there are very few "big" actions to analyse - then this is the film for you. Long periods aboard the good Spaceship unfold without dialogue, action or even much in the way of incidental music, and are suddenly shot through with flashbacks and (small) narrative developments which are very hard to decipher. I'm sure it's all very clever and allegorical, but I wasn't persuaded that the mental energy necessary to unpick the allegory was justified, and as a result I continually fell asleep and had to rewind or restart, and eventually watched the film over about 5 nights.

Solaris is definitely eerie, and there are some terrific set pieces: among them a splendid spoof of the technicolour freak out trip from the climax of 2001 A Space Odyssey, which is re-cast, in black and white, through the eyes of a taxi-driver navigating the freeways and tunnels of Tokyo (this sounds ridiculous, I know, but it is true), but generally the name of the game is arty incoherence.

It is also heavily influenced by 2001 (in many ways it's a straight copy), but is done with a fraction of Kubrick's wit or style, and nor does it have the epic scale (i.e., no Arthur C. Clarkian musings on the origins of life as we know it here, thank you very much). Indeed, the outward premise - trouble aboard a space station orbiting an apparently sentient ocean - is not the motivating force behind the production: in terms of exposition this is given rather short shrift, which is odd in a movie of this length in which not much else really happens.

It's in Russian, of course, though generally the dubbing is excellent - it's very hard to tell the actors aren't speaking English, in fact, except when the dubbing suddenly stops and reverts to Russian. This happens three or four times.

In any case, unlikely to be a million seller on DVD.

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Olly Buxton ()
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Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
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Wiki

The Russian answer to2001, and very nearly as memorable a movie. The legendary Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky made this extremely deliberate science-fiction epic, an adaptation of a novel by Stanislaw Lem. The story follows a cosmonaut (Donatas Banionis) on an eerie trip to a planet where haunting memories can take physical form. Its bare outline makes it sound like a routine space-flight picture, an elongatedTwilight Zoneepisode; but the further into its mysteries we travel, the less familiar anything seems. Even though Tarkovsky's meanings and methods are sometimes mystifying,Solarishas a way of crawling inside your head, especially given the slow pace and general lack of forward momentum. By the time the final images cross the screen, Tarkovsky has gone way beyond SF conventions into a moving, unsettling vision of memory and home. Well worthy of cult status,Solarisis both challenging art-house fare and a whacked-out head trip.--Robert Horton
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Details

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
DVD Release Date: November 26, 2002
Runtime: 165 minutes
Studio: Criterion
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