Sci-Fi December: Solaris (USSR)

Solaris USSR illustration by Jeff SchwartzbauerSolaris (USSR) – 1972

Dir: Andrey Tarkovskiy | Starring: Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Jüri Järvet

Year: Undisclosed, Technology suggests Future

Review: A psychologist is sent up to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris after its been reported that the crew has been going through an emotional crisis and that no scientific progress has been achieved for a long span of time. When he arrives he discovers that the planet they have been orbiting is believed to be the cause of the crisis by its interaction with the crew via either real replicas or convincing hallucinations of people from their memories. The psychologist is not spared and is thrust into a difficult confrontation when his wife who had committed suicide a decade earlier arrives in his room. This film is considered to be the Russian answer to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and thus its an extremely heavy drama that prefers to churn with inner emotional struggles rather than science fiction intrigue. Space and its unknown effects does play a massive role, but its more to propel the films true questions about love, loss, depression and purpose. The characters all very serious and tortured, the pace is slow and quiet, and the camera does like to be still and focus on things for long periods of time and gives the viewer time to reflect and think. Its a thick slab of psychological drama with plenty of breathing room (sometimes too much early on) with a dark and somewhat haunting tone. I recommend it, but maybe just for people who don’t find a long 2hr 46min slog through inter-galactic depression to be a waste of their time.

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