Solaris – a film about people’s erotic problems in outer space. Or so you’ll see…
Solaris (Солярис / Solyaris) is a 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky adaptation of Stanisław Lem’s science fiction novel of the same name. Oddly enough, both Tarkovksy and Lem took issue with the movie. Tarkovsky came to call the film “an artistic failure.” Meanwhile, Lem was critical of all adaptations of his book. Among his many gripes with Tarkovsky’s version he criticized it for focusing on “people’s erotic problems in outer space.”
This the Tarkovsky adaptation doesn’t exactly overlap with the subjects covered in Lem’s original novel. Whereas the main idea of Lem’s story is that of a human encounter with something that can’t be reduced to human concepts, Tarkovsky focused in on shortcomings of the scientistic worldview.
A scientistic worldview is when one holds an exaggerated trust in the scientific method to explore all areas of investigation. If you watch Solaris – or Stalker, or The Sacrifice – it’s abundantly clear that Tarkovsky does not hold that outlook.
In this movie’s story, a Soviet psychologist, Kris Kelvin, is sent to a space station orbiting the planet of Solaris. He’s going there to investigate the skeletal cosmonaut crew which has gone insane. The ocean of Solaris is some sort of intelligent life form that creates hallucinatory memories in the station’s crew.
Scientism meets mysticism. Reality becomes unreliable. Check this movie out.
On Kris’s way to the station, we are treated to a solid ten minutes of footage of a car simply driving through contemporary Japanese highways. These scene may seem anywhere between normal and unsettling. However, the intention was something else. This sort of quality infrastructure – multi-lane highways with complex, interlocking bridges and junctions – appeared dazzlingly futurist to Soviet people at the time.
Another interesting piece of film trivia concerns the understandable comparison between Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Kubrick’s 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is much in common between the two movies: a slow, atmospheric pace, shared setting in outer space, and commentary on mankind’s technological advances. Partly because of this, Solaris came to be marketed in the West as “Russia’s answer to 2001: A Space Odyssey.” No doubt that tickled Kubrick pink – he was a fan of Tarkovsky. However, the same can not be said the other way around. In an 1970 interview (before Solaris came out) with Soviet film journalist, Naum Abramov, Tarkovsky ripped into Kubrick.
“Почему-то во всех научно-фантастических фильмах, которые мне приходилось видеть, авторы заставляют зрителя рассматривать детали материальной структуры будущего. Более того, иногда они (как С. Кубрик) называют свои фильмы предвидениями. Невероятно! Я уже не говорю, что для специалистов «2001 год: Космическая одиссея» во многих пунктах — липа. Для произведения искусства липа должна быть исключена.”
“For some reason, in all the science fiction films that I have seen, the authors force the viewer to consider the details of the material structure of the future. Moreover, sometimes they (like Stanley Kubrick) call their films foresight. Unbelievable! Let alone that “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a fake in many places, even for specialists. For a work of art, fakery should be excluded.”
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