Solaris (film review)

Dr. Snaut (Jüri Järvet) monologue in the space station’s library

“Science? Nonsense! In our situation, mediocrity and genius are equally useless. We have no interest in conquering any cosmos: we want to extend the Earth to the borders of cosmos. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. We don’t need other worlds: we need a mirror. We struggle for contact, but we’ll never find it. We’re in the foolish human predicament of striving for a goal that we fear, that we have no need for. Man needs man.”

Such goes one of the best pieces of speech in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (Russian production awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes Festival in 1972), a film adaptation loosely following Stanisław Lem’s science-fiction novel Solaris (Poland, 1961).

Though needlessly long and overly slow, this finely performed and unforgettable movie postulates the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and alien species. Its brilliant dialogues and snaring musical theme, the strong personality of its characters and the excellent performance (Jüri Järvet, playing Dr. Snaut, deserves being highlighted) powerfully captured my attention to an almost hypnotizing degree; not only because of its excellent scenography, but mostly becaue of the rich food-for-thought provided.
Solaris is a philosophical essay on man’s anthropomorphic limitations; a meditative psychological drama proposing the futility of attempted communications with extraterrestrial life. The plot occurs mostly aboard a space station orbiting the far-distant planet Solaris, totally covered by an ocean which is a planet-encompassing, single organism. In examining this oceanic surface from the hovering research station, its scientists are being studied, in turn, by the sentient planet itself, which probes for the thoughts of the humans and has the ability to recreate their secret or guilty concerns in human-like material forms. After years of observation, the mission stalls after all the crew members have fallen to emotional crises; hence, a psychologist travels from Earth to learn and evaluate the situation, though only to encounter the same mysterious phenomenon as the other scientists aboard have.

To me, this is a must-see film; one of those many that, unfortunately, very seldom reach our Western countries’ screens because of the limited scope of film distribution oligopoly.

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