Thursday, February 3, 2011

Solaris Directed Andrei Tarkovsky 1972

I'm a big fan of elegant sci-fi films like 2001. I'm fascinated by the thought experiments they present. Solaris is one of those films. A psychologist is assigned to survey a remote outpost in space that was created to study a planet that has a strange form of alien intelligence on it. It takes the form of a skin covering a vast sea. The other scientists at the base have either committed suicide or withdrawn into themselves. He arrives to find the base in disarray and shortly thereafter he begins to be affected by the  intelligence as well. He is visited by his wife who has been dead for 7 years. She is unaware of why she is there, though she is quite conscious of who and where she is. It seems that the intelligence is able to search the minds of the people on the base and present, in seemingly living form the people and circumstances that haunt them the most. The visions seem to have lives of their own, however when the wife tries to commit suicide she's healed and continues to live. The experiences of the other members of the team are only hinted at, but seem to be much worse.
The film is based on a 1961 novel by Stanislaw Lem and is very cerebral. It explores the nature of consciousness and questions our understanding of reality. The film is almost hypnotic in its pacing. It's presented in the original Russian with English subtitles. It was remade for an American audience by Stephen Soderbergh in 2002 with George Clooney in the lead, and that film is also somewhat obscure.
This movie is quite well known in film circles - Tarkovsky is one of Russia's premier directors and this is one of his best known films in the west - so its only claim to obscurity is that it has never really entered the public consciousness. It's available on DVD and can be seen in its entirety on YouTube, thanks to an upload by IgorRusland. I have never seen it screened on TV, though it isn't out of the realm of possibility. The poster above is available on

Obscurity factor: 3 (on DVD, well known in film circles, largely unknown by the general public)

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