Soviet Film Wednesday: Solaris

Solaris

When psychologist Kris Kelvin travels to the space station that is orbiting the oceanic planet Solaris to investigate the psychological unrest of the skeleton crew of three working there, he soon finds himself having the same mental difficulties.

Solaris begins with an idyllic countryside scene, where Kris Kelvin visits his father at his home on his last day before his journey. After this, Kelvin goes to Solaris to evaluate the situation there. On Kelvin’s arrival, he is disturbed to find that one of the crew, Dr. Gibarian, has committed suicide, and the other two remaining members, Snaut and Sartorius, are fearful and evasive. It doesn’t help that ten years in the past on Earth, Kelvin’s wife had committed suicide.

Kris takes a much needed nap, yet when he wakes, he finds his wife next to him. While he was sleeping, Solaris created a copy of Kelvin’s previous wife, Hari, based on his memories. More disturbed than ever, Kelvin launches the replica of his former wife into space. Afterwards, Snaut explains to him that visitors started appearing on the space station after the crew conducted radiation experiments on Solaris. Later that evening, Hari appears on the space station again; this time Kris accepts her presence and they fall asleep in each other’s embrace. Kris forms a bond with the replica, and soon becomes more emotionally attached to the copy of his wife than he was before in their real marriage. Even though the replica was created based on his memories of Hari, the copy begins to develop her own new personality while aboard the spacecraft.

Solaris Poster

The film contrasts the cold, sterile space station with scenes of earthly nature, which are a paradisal relief compared to the state of the ship, and which remind us of the life and humanity found in nature. In keeping with favorite Tarkovsky motifs, Solaris contains its share of mysterious water scenes, symbolic of the transience of life.

Solaris was released in 1972 by Mosfilm and was based on the novel Solaris by Stanisław Lem. It stars Natalya Bondarchuk as Hari Kelvin and Donatas Banionis as Kris Kelvin. It is set to an electronic music score performed by Eduard Artemyev and captivating Bach placement. Here is a trailer recently released by the Austin Film Society.

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