Solaris (1972)



General Information

The information below is taken from the following link:

15    167 min  –  Sci-Fi  –  20 March 1972(Soviet Union)

DirectorAndrei TarkovskyWritors

Stanislaw Lem (novel); Fridrikh Gorenshtein; Andrei Tarkovsky


Natalya Bondarchuk; Donatas Banionis; Jüri Järvet 

Solaris (1972)

Solaris (1972)


Kris Kelvin goes aboard a space station. Whilst there he discovers that his ex-wife, Hari is on there to. However, he later realises, that this isn’t a real person, but a phyicalised memory, an impression of her…


Solaris is a film so emotionally complex and dare I use the critic-cliche, ‘layered’, that it essentially urinates all over the majority of films which attempt to be ‘deep’ and ‘rich in meaning’. It is about everything and nothing – and I am fully aware that this statement makes no comprehensible sense at all. The only way that statement will ever be justified is when you watch Solaris. Of course, this statement applies with most of Tarkovsky’s work. His films are intentionally slow, and unfold like a droplet of water dripping glacially down a glass pane. Even though he is a careful and slow director, it all builds up to something significantly powerful; because his films are long, he can go into more depth than a shorter film. The power of a short film is that it can make its points with a quickening force. The power of a longer film is that it can make more points and in more depth. I find that longer films have the power to immerse you more in their universe. As you spend more time with a film, you geet used to the tempo or the rhythym of it, and thus get progressively more obsorbed into it.

It is bizarre that this film is oft compared to Kubrick’s 2001. Perhaps it’s because they’re both philosophical and set in space. Or something. I don’t know. To me, they couldn’t be more opposite. Paradoxical to Kubrick’s nature, 2001 is very optimistic; whilst Solaris is rather cynical. 2001 goes on a journey to the outer edges of space itself whilst Solaris goes to the edges of the human psyche, right into the subconscious, and beyond. And Solaris doesn’t even have any monkeys in it, to my rather large disappointment.

Tarkovsky vs Kubrick: Solaris and 2001 are often compared to one another

Tarkovsky vs Kubrick: Solaris and 2001 are often compared to one another

Solaris is a film about memory and perception, and how what we experience is related to what is actually happening. It is also about how the metaphysical concepts of truth and reality may not even exist. Our memories are evidence that we have lived in this world – yet humans are unreliable, and our perceived notion of what might have happened is naturally warped, made sentimental and romanticised.

Kelvin, a psychologist is sent on a mission to a space station. This space station is studying the eluvious planet, Solaris. The gases on this planet somehow effect the human psyche and memory itself. Kelvin then sees his ex-wife, Hari, on board the ship. This is a bizarre occurrence, as a year ago she committed suicide. However he falls in love with her again. What is stranger is that the other crew members see her as well. Kelvin is not hallucinating: his memory has taken a physicalised form. He doesn’t necessarily fall in love with his ex-wife again: he falls in love with the memory of her, the idea of her. If your partner has died, all you will be left with is the time which you sent with them.

Perhaps falling in love with a person and the idea of that person are the same thing. We cherish our experiences of people that we love, and this is how our thoughts and memories are shaped. The genius of Solaris is that it knows these many factors. Tarkovsky is a subtle director. He does not need dialogue to put across these complex notions, but merely images and sounds – which once made, he puts forward for us to interpret.

Beautiful imagery in Solaris #1

Beautiful imagery in Solaris #1


Beautiful imagery in Solaris #2

Beautiful imagery in Solaris #2

Complications arise. Hari begins to believe that Kelvin does not love her anymore. She becomes irratic and attempts suicide. Of course, she cannot die. Human beings can die, but memories transcend this notion, memories can never die, they live on inside the mind. Yet what makes this notion more haunting is that his memories can be seen. The presence of his memory haunts him more because she has the appearance of being real. Of course, this poses the question: is reality as real as our perception of it?

Tarkovsky takes this fantastic singular idea of a memory having a physical presence and develops it to such complex levels that it forces us to engage with the piece and engage it with our own lives.

The character of Kelvin’s memory of Hari also develops the central idea to the film. She does not know where she comes from. She has no parents or friends. The only memories she has are those with Kelvin. In this sense, she is incomplete, and she is aware of this. She of course, never tells us these things, but Tarkovsky is such a masterful director that we can interpret the look in her eyes, or the way she moves, or simply how we’d react in the situation that she’s in to understand her position. It must be horrible to think that your lover isn’t in love with you, but must be even more horrific if you know that this is because you are not even a real person, just a fictionalised construct of their imagination. Khari is a complete mystery: what she thinks, feels, and even means is unknown – she is the human form of the memory that is created after watching Solaris.


So mysterious in what it could mean that numerous interpretations could be drawn. Perhaps the entire film is a dream, a memory – who knows? Either way what we’re left with is a challenging film filled with beautiful shots and a haunting score, a film so organic and complex that it defies categorisation.


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