19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Islands of memory
Unlike Soderbergh's interminable and seemingly much longer take on Stanislaw Lem's novel, Tarkovsky's Solaris is a sensual film, but one where the senses aren't exactly numbed as dulled into a kind of half-dreamlike state. Like the reeds in the opening shot, you have to go with the ebb and flow - it's almost more of a feeling than a film. And, it has to be said, at times...
Published on 23 Aug 2007 by Trevor Willsmer
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars problematic production
I love this movie and bought the Artificial Eye version because of certain extras. I also have the superb Criterion release, which is about 15 minutes longer. I won't discuss the actual film -- an acknowledged masterpiece of Russian film-making -- just the DVD production.
The AE version has a nice picture and good sub-titles but it somewhat awkward to navigate...
Published on 16 Jan 2011 by M. FUSCO
Most Helpful First | Newest First
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Islands of memory,
Unlike Soderbergh's interminable and seemingly much longer take on Stanislaw Lem's novel, Tarkovsky's Solaris is a sensual film, but one where the senses aren't exactly numbed as dulled into a kind of half-dreamlike state. Like the reeds in the opening shot, you have to go with the ebb and flow - it's almost more of a feeling than a film. And, it has to be said, at times that feeling can be like being lulled to the verge of sleep, while at others it's like being caught up in a fever. It's tempting to wonder what Werner Herzog makes of the film.
Lem famously disliked the film with a passion, feeling it gave into the heart rather the head with trite clichés: "Instead of focusing on deeper moral questions related to frontiers of human knowledge, he made a drama-type Crime and Punishment in space, by making up unnecessary characters of parents and relatives, then adding a hut on an island," was one of his less bitter comments after he fell out with Tarkovsky writing the script, although that implies a far more sentimental film than Tarkovsky delivered. Certainly the issue of whether the visitors are a gift, an experiment, a probe or a defensive psychological attack on the scientists is all but ignored in favour of their emotional effects on Kelvin and (to a much lesser effect) the scientists: these characters really aren't looking for answers, they're looking for a mirror, and it's their insular nature that condemns them to literally float in their own islands of memory (or a 'hut on an island' if you ascribe to Lem's view).
Rather than a formulaic movie redemption tale or Lem's examination of our inability to truly comprehend a superior alien intelligence because of the biological limitations imposed on us almost as design faults, Tarkovsky's film is about the limitations we impose on ourselves regardless of how far we technically advance and our inability to rise above them. Its nominal hero, Kelvin, is not a pleasant man and the film makes little attempt to bring the audience to his side. He treats the disgraced Cosmonaut Burton with insensitivity, professes a ruthless scientific pragmatism that allows for no human element and his immediate response to his first 'guest' on the Solaris research station is to deceive and dispose of her. Yet ultimately, as much because of his emotional limitations as in spite of them, he's the one human being who acts most humanely by recognising, albeit in a totally self-centred way, that the fault lies not in the stars but in themselves. Like Burton's young son with the horse in the lengthy prologue on Earth, he displays a childlike fear and rejection of something he doesn't understand before reluctantly accepting that it may have beauty, even if it's a beauty he cannot comfortably embrace.
But the most human character remains the least human: Hari, or rather his image of his dead wife Hari, unable to feel anything that he does not remember for her, stifled by his limitations and gradually assuming a painful awareness and despair of her own. Ironically, it's as she becomes more human that she becomes more unstable. To the other scientists it's because the visitors are unstable neutrino systems, but it's when the artificial Hari studying a painting - another artificial creation of man's consciousness - which triggers a real memory that the horror of her situation as a mere facsimile strikes home. To Kelvin she's at first more a penance than a second chance, a condemnation to repeat history while remaining oblivious - as he presumably did with the real Hari - to the person she is really becoming.
So, not exactly a barrel of laughs, but strangely compelling if you go with it. The 165 minutes don't exactly fly by, but they certainly can get under your skin if you're in a receptive mood and it's not hard to see why it's been so influential on Hollywood sci-fi (Sphere, Event Horizon and Star Trek The Motion Picture among the most prominent).
Sadly, I was shocked by just how bad the picture quality of the first hour of Criterion's Region 1 NTSC DVD was compared to the PAL Russico/Artificial Eye Region 2 PAL one - aside from some grading and subtitle changes it looks like you're watching a bad standards conversion of a video tape that's been burned onto a CD-R for all of the Earth-bound sequences, although the colour is better. If it weren't for the better extras package - including several deleted/extended scenes and detailed interviews - I doubt I'd have kept this copy. So, if you're wondering which to buy, the Criterion NTSC disc has the better extras but the Artificial Eye PAL disc has the better picture.
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction with spiritual quest,
The story follows the book "Solaris" by Stanislav Lem. Solaris is a planet covered by the ocean. One of the hypothesis is that this ocean is a thinking matter that tries to correspond with humans. Misterious events happen at Solaris space station: personnel disappears, scientific experiments are in dolldrums, eventually contact with station is lost. A researcher played by the famous Soviet era Lithuanian actor - Banionis - is sent to investigate the situation and take a decision on whether to continue the work on a station or close it down...
However, let the viewer be forewarned that anybody expecting a thriller will be utterly disappointed. The film is a contemplation and analysis of what we consider important in our lives. The questions of duty, love, memory, nostalgia and soul occupy most of the film's content. In a way, science fiction only serves a purpose of the best conduit to explore the most important issues of human existence.
It is a definite tribute to Tarkovsky's mastery that film manages to convey its ideas with a bare minimum of science fiction stunts (if any) and very minimal other technical means of expression. Aspiring film makers can learn from Tarkovsky on how to create one of the most powerful images ever seen in the world cinema without big budgets or artificial wizardry.
Tarkovsky is a very consistent director in his film making. The attention to small details of nature, slow camera exploration of every shot will be familiar to the viewers who saw his other films. Indeed, after Mirror and Andrei Rublev, Solaris is a natural progression of Tarkovsky's initiate. The pleasure of recognising the common themes of all his films is an important viewing experience.
Solaris is more understating than "Mirror" or "Andrei Rublev" in its expression of Tarkovsky's own views. While it makes the film a touch more dificult (relative to the other two films)to understand, it definitely gives the viewer more room for interpretation and own exploration of spiritual topic.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A spiritual milestone in the history of cinema,
SOLARIS remains Tarkovsky's most spiritually intense film - an unparalleled achievement that quietly gathers force with each passing year. Entirely devoid of the glibness and hip irony that cripples much of today's cinema, SOLARIS is an unapologetically earnest and sincere attempt to explore the state of the human soul and the redemptive powers of simple, human love.
The DVD transfer is very good, but without knowing the condition of the print used or the technical details of the transfer, one can't really make a judgement. Suffice to say, it's superior to the VHS editions I have seen and is presented in its original aspect ratio. The extra features are fascinating and include present day interviews with actress Natalya Bondarchuk, Tarkovsky's sister and a late sixties featurette on lead actor Donatis Banionis (a revered stage actor). There's also an original trailer/promo spot for Mirror, with a glimpse of Tarkovsky himself, and some good production stills on Disc 2. The major complaint here though, derives from the ridiculous decision to put the film itself onto 2 discs. Why not place the film in its entirety onto disc one and the extra features onto disc two as most other companies do?
In summary, if you don't mind flipping discs halfway through, and you're as continually amazed and moved by the cinematic power of Andrei Tarkovsky, then buy this DVD now!!
Daniel S Graham
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece,
By A Customer
I saw this as a kid. Double bill with a short called 'Cosmic Zoom'. Dumped in cinema three, but nowadays it would be unthinkable to have a Russian subtitled film out in the 'burbs. The reeds at the beginning and the music stuck in my mind and years later I saw it again as an adult, obviously. I immediately pronounced it the best film I had ever seen and my opinion has not changed to this day. An enduring masterpiece and a cross between visiting a church and going to an art gallery. Even the dated sci fi talk does not lessen it. Recently a new print was shown at the National Film Theatre. Someone opened a sweety wrapper through the final scene when he goes 'home'. Can you believe that? You may prefer to watch this in the comfort of your own home for that reason alone, although I do think the Tark should be viewed on the big screen.
We are not meant to discuss other reviews posted here, but I would like to point out that this is emphatically not the Criterion release and you will not get the deleted mirror room footage.
It is a scandal that Tarkovsky is habitually left off so many twenty greatest director lists on various sites, while Woody Allen (God help us) is usually there.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars master craftsman,
Solaris isn't easy going but it's worth the effort. Tarkovsky's method is very slow, building up an atmosphere, taking beautiful shots - and there's this horse which keeps on galloping around - and I'm thinking what's that about? In space you have a station where the other crew have gone mad and 'alien' life force which is making them go mad is doing so by making their memory come 'alive'. A scientist is sent to investigage and his past comes 'alive'. Some how he is able to resolve the conflict by showing 'love' and 'understanding' instead of 'fear' and 'violence'. Well that's what I made of it - you may read something different into it. After I had watched the film - I began to appreciated it - whereas while watching it, I was working hard to figure it out. If you like thought provoking films and intelligent scripts I think your enjoy this film. If on the other hand you like 1 1/2 hour, fast moving hollywood films then avoid this.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The slow and thoughtful nightmare of reality.,
Probably the worst thing about Solaris is the remake that has brought hundreds of MTV generated minds to the doorstep of Russian film making only to balk at what they get in the end. This isn't about lots of explosions and face paced editing. It is about enjoying a novel that has been brought to life. Solaris is derived from a book of the same name by polish writer Stanislaw Lem and is directed by the acclaimed russian film maker Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972.
The opening sequence revolves around a family of astronaughts who talk about their lives and space travel. It turns out that something very strange is happening on a planet called Solaris which is recalled through a soviet type interrogiation sequence like something out of the x-files. Like in much of David Lynch's work people say and talk about wierd things. Nothing seems to make sense.
Zipping through a montage of nature/urban photography we find our hero on a space station orbiting solaris where the crew have all gone but mostly crazy. Slowly our hero begins to discover what is going on.
Tarkovsky's photograph is a must see. This is a 1972 Russia production and even thought the print has jumps and bad bits - UK or American cinematography pales in comparison, even today. This film is totally out there and like most of Trakovski's films and is full of philosophy and psychological drama. If you prefer a slow peaceful and thoughtful movie then this is the one for you. I also highly recommend Stalker which is another sci-fi classic from this same director.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barely long enough?,
By A Customer
This review is from: Solaris [VHS] (VHS Tape)
You can only watch Solaris once, on your own, when you've got the time to appreciate it. Only then can you be drawn into its hypnotic, glacially-paced other-worldliness.
Other reviewers have already described the plot. A few have commented on this film's length. It needs every minute of its three hours plus duration to cast its spell.
Looking for a quick fix of entertainment? Forget it. Looking for cinema that draws you inexorably out of your living room and into its strange and absorbing world - and then stays in your mind forever? This is it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Edition of a Masterpiece,
This review is from: Solaris - Criterion Collection [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is a superb DVD of Tarkovsky's great 1972 science fiction epic Solaris. It includes deleted scenes, although these are mainly just deleted sections from longer scenes or shots in the film. The main exception to this is the fascinating 'Mirror Room' scene, only a fraction of which surived into the finished film. There are also several interviews, including one with Natalya Bondarchuk, which is wonderful. The film also contains an interesting commentary track by Tarkovsky scholars Vida Johnson & Graham Petrie. The icing on the cake, however, is the film itself: the transfer is stunning and the soundtrack is the original Russian mono mix. Buy this instead of the Artificial Eye version, which is spread over two discs and has a 5.1 remix.
The film, needless to say, is one Tarkovsky's best, IMHO, and the nearest he ever came to making a love story. Stand out moments: the beginning, showing Kelvin contemplating, the drive into the city, the birthday party in the library and, perhaps best of all, the profoundly moving home movie, weightlessness and Breughel sequences. If 2001 could be said to be a cold movie, Solaris is its exact opposite: a deeply human, wise film about love, loss and conscience.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A planet of the mind (spoilers),
This review is from: Criterion Collection: Solaris [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
If Andrei Tarkovsky had been an English-speaking director, then "Solaris" would be known and loved as deeply as "2001: A Space Odyssey."
Sadly, Tarkovsky's best-known movie is not nearly well-known enough. This is not a "Star Trek" style narrative where there is a problem to be solved -- It's a quiet, contemplative sci-fi movie that uses an alien planet as the backdrop for one man's wounded soul to be healed. You may need to watch it a few times to fully absorb its meaning, but its beauty and sorrow are enough to pull you in.
Solaris is a distant water planet, whose ocean seems to be an intelligent life form. There is a human space station orbiting it for scientific study, but the mission really hasn't gone very far, mainly because almost all the crew has had meltdowns or hallucinations. Troubled psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is being sent to Solaris to determine whether the mission should continue.
But when he arrives, he finds that the space station is falling apart, and his friend Dr. Gibarian (Sos Sargsyan) has committed suicide. The two remaining scientists, Dr. Snaut (Jüri Järvet) and Dr. Sartorius (Anatoliy Solonitsyn), are strangely unwilling to talk to Kris -- and they seem to be hiding living creatures on the space station. When Kris' wife Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk) -- who committed suicide years ago -- appears, he begins to realize what Solaris truly is.
Technically speaking, "Solaris" is a science fiction movie. After all, everything that happens centers on an intelligent water-planet, an alien intelligence that can only communicate through creating replicas so perfect that they don't know they aren't human. It's a hauntingly strange, wondrous kind of sci-fi, imagining worlds and creatures that are so ALIEN that we can barely comprehend them.
But in this movie, the sci-fi elements are there to serve the human ones. This is a heartrending, exquisite story of loss and grief, explored through Kris' struggle to deal with a simulacrum of his beloved dead wife and his guilt over her. Tarkovsky's direction is absolutely brilliant, slow and dreamlike, full of mist and pale light, metal walls and lush landscapes -- and it makes the shocking moments all the more shocking because they are so soft and slow.
Reportedly Banionis didn't really "get" his role until he saw the finished movie, but he does give a quietly powerful performance as a man with a wife he drove to suicide and a father he's still got issues with. And Bondarchuk is powerfully tragic as a Solaris-generated simulacrum who cannot understand what she is, and whose knowledge may destroy her.
And in a weird way, Solaris itself is a character -- while it never speaks and is a formless creature beyond our knowledge, it seems curious. And when it interacts with Kris, it gives him the chance to work through his issues and be at peace, and in turn the planet can become something new and glorious.
"Solaris" is a luminous, haunting movie that uses science fiction to tell a very human story -- and Tarkovsky's exquisite direction makes this one of the best movies of the genre. An absolute must-see.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece.,
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It is hard for me to describe the powerful effect this film had on me when I first saw it. It offers things rarely found in western cinema - philosophy, abstraction, silence and stylish minimalism.
The film is littered with beautifully artistic moments. Early on is a an extended car journey sequence with no dialogue, complete with semi-ambient soundtrack, very ahead of its time. The rare 'space' scene as we see the exterior of the station is also simple, covincing and majestic. Frequently scenes end and begin with a view of the planet below, with no irritating framing or foreground, that become pure abstract art, with noise to match.
The performances are excellent, though it is the beautiful Natalya Bondarchuk who steals every scene with her compelling portrayal of a sentient being composed of fragments of someone else's recollections. The small cast effectively create an atmosphere of self imposed repression and self denial against which the the only real, honest human is the incomplete, constructed one.
The film deftly, elegantly and powerfully deals with love, regret, memory and being. It does so with such subtlety and style as to make one ponder the failings of much modern cinema. As for sheer power, I defy anyone not to be gripped by the unearthly, disturbingly beautiful 'resurrection' scene.
If we compare cinema to other forms of art, Tarkovsky's Solaris is to film what Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals are to painting. Regarding those paintings a viewer once remarked that they seem like "the last things you see before you die" - the iconography of the absolute. This film can create a similar, hard to define reaction.
It's like the best of Kubrick, but with such soul that even the most commited of atheists (such as myself) can be deeply moved by it.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Criterion Collection: Solaris [Blu-ray]  [US Import] by Andrei Tarkovsky (Blu-ray - 2011)
Used & New from: £21.39