QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded

Solaris (Solyaris (1972))

Solaris, remade in 2002 with the same title, is a slow pyschological examination of a small group of people. It's considered a classic, and as a piece of Soviet-made science fiction cinema, it's an unsual piece. The story concerns scientists tasked with studying the mysterious exoplanet Solaris.

You know the way a Bond film opens? With a big action piece and then a visually arresting title sequence? This is the opposite of that. There were about four minutes of credits, untranslated white cyrillic on black background with classical music playing, then changing focus to Kris Kelvin taking a silent, meditative walk through nature. The first dialog is about seven minutes into the film, and the action doesn't shift to the vincinity of the title planet until about fourty minutes in.

By now you've probably noticed I had several oppotunities to check the time during this film. It's slow and long (nearly three hours). It really could have benefitted from more footage left on the editing room floor. The biggest waste of time is a long sequence with a former Solatisist driving around in Japan. It's not clear if he is a passenger or a driver (but he is sitting on the driver side for Japan). It's not clear why he is in Japan or even if we are supposed to notice the country (but really, there are road signs visible, so I think we are). It is clear that he's got a kid in the back seat who not only doesn't have a seatbelt on, he's crawling around. It is clear that that the guy is not only making a phone call, it's a video conference call (and if he's driving at the same time? gah!). And it's got way too much of just driving around with no apparent purpose to the story.

After the flight to Solaris (which is far shorter than the drive around Japan, and so uneventful even Kris, in the space craft, remarks on not noticing the launch), then things get more interesting. The film doesn't speed up, but the intrigue levels get bumped up a notch. Mysterious things are afoot and those in the know about them don't want to talk.

The author of the book, Stanislaw Lem, has reportedly not liked either of the adaptions and commented that he wrote a book called Solaris and not Love in Space. The book tries to express the difficulty that humans would have communicating with an alien intelligence. In this movie at least, the only signs of the alien intelligence are the "visitors" it projects into the space station and swirling seas on the planet below. Not only is it difficult to communicate with it, the characters are more involved with what's happening on the station than even trying to communicate (though they do make some attempts).

I'd give it three mysteriously reappeared wives out of five.

Solaris (1972) at IMDB

Solaris (2002) at IMDB

Final thought: isn't about to rush out and watch the 2002 version