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Film: Solaris (1972)

Andrei Tarkovsky's adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's 1961 science fiction novel Solaris. Rather than make a direct adaptation, Tarkovsky turned Lem's science fiction story into a psychological drama. While the novel dealt primarily with the problem of communicating with a fundamentally different life form, the film is more concerned with such themes as life, death, identity, love and humanity. It puts great focus on psychologist Kris Kelvin's relationship with his deceased wife, whom he encounters as a simulacrum created by a mysterious alien intelligence present on the planet Solaris.


This films provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: Since the movie has a somewhat different premise than the novel it was based on, the novel sheds light on many of the aspects that were deemed unimportant in the adaptation, including the ending. However, not unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey, it does a very good job "illustrating" the book, since everything that's described in detail in the novel finds a very faithful visual recreation in the film. Unless it's a part that the film changes, then the viewer has to pay very close attention to figure out what's going on.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Ocean's biomagnetic current and neutrino-based projections, and the technology associated with the station.
  • Art Shift: There are shifts between color and greyscale, with greyscale being more contemplative.
  • Artificial Gravity: The space station apparently has this, as demonstrated by the memorable scene where it gets turned off and Kris and Hari float around.
  • Artificial Human: Hari is a creation of the Solaris ocean, using Kris's memories. She isn't the only one, either, as one of the other scientists appears to have a dwarf companion.
  • Back from the Dead: Since Hari is a construct of the Solaris ocean, she doesn't have to stay dead. This is illustrated in a disturbing scene where she kills herself by drinking liquid oxygen, only to spasm and twitch back to life.
  • Body Horror: The injuries Hari suffers.
  • Bus Crash: Visitor Hari dies/goes away/something off camera.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Nothing is seen of the travel between Earth and Solaris. This is partly for budget reasons, partly because Tarkovsky intended for the film to be more of a psychological drama than a classical science fiction movie.
  • Cloning Blues: Hari's existence causes a lot of angst both for her and for Kris.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: The film is far more philosophical and slow-paced than most western sci-fi films. To illustrate this, there's a scene on the DVD called "The Meaning of Life".
  • Despair Event Horizon: Hari, although it's a blink and you'll miss it sort of thing. She goes from being mildly unsure of her identity to drinking liquid oxygen in literally less than ten minutes.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: A Tarkovsky staple. Monochrome sequences, as well as sepia, appear throughout the film.
  • Driven to Suicide: Gibaryan and Hari again, although it happens almost completely out of the blue.
  • Dull Surprise: The acting is fairly... stoic, for the most part. To say that this movie is emotionally flat would be drastically overstating the amount of energy displayed by the actors.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hari, also Gilbarian.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Solaris itself is revealed as a life form far bigger and more complex than anything within human understanding. The problems inherent in communicating with such a being are among the key themes of Lem's original novel.
  • Expendable Clone: A horrified Kris puts Hari in a rocket and launches her into space. The Solaris ocean promptly creates another Hari.
  • Fanservice: Hari's nipples poke through her shirt when she resurrects after taking the liquid oxygen. The latter case is kind of a Mood Whiplash, though, being in such an emotionally devastating scene.
  • Fetus Terrible: One hypothesis about the nature of Solaris.
  • Futuristic Superhighway: The highways Burton drives through are actually the completely undisguised central expressways of contemporary Tokyo, filmed to make up for the missed opportunity to film something more futuristic that Akira Kurosawa had been hoping to set Tarkovsky's crew up with. But it still works even if you know what it is ... and just imagine what it might have looked like to Soviet audiences at the time, who had almost no such roads to drive (if they had cars, that is).
  • Gainax Ending: Whoa boy, big time. Pretty much everything is Left Hanging and the main character decides to return home. We think he's on Earth, but then the camera pans up and it is revealed that he is on an island on Solaris. Or he did leave, and this is just a copy of him and his home that Solaris made. The Ending Changes Everything
  • Genius Loci: Solaris, or at least its ocean could very well be a massive intelligent organism.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Burton after his flight over the Ocean, at least according to the heads of Solaristics.
  • Healing Factor: The projection of Hari can heal deep cuts from trying to break down a metal door and, after drinking liquid oxygen, painfully resurrects on the floor of the Solaris Station.
  • Herr Doktor: Doctor Snaut in Solaris.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The visitors. They look just like ordinary people, but they are unimaginably strong and they are pretty much impossible to kill.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Gilbarian did this literally.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Meet Andrei Tarkovsky! Fast camera movements are not his style. The long scene where Burton drives through Tokyo, and absolutely nothing happens, stands out.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The planet having the ability to create human-like beings on the space station based on the astronauts' memories of family members.
  • Made of Iron: The Visitors. According to what we're told by Snaut, they can endure being shot, overdosed on narcotics, and other injuries which humans would find crippling, if not fatal.
  • Mind Screw: The plot and setting of the film are rather strange and hard to follow. The Gainax Ending only amplifies the mystery pervading the whole film.
  • Mysterious Waif: Hari. The main character knows her as his ex-wife who killed herself ten years prior, but nobody knows why or how she shows up.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Sartorius talks about existentialism, the lack of greater meaning, and the ultimate futility of life.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The heads of the Solaris Project reject Burton's testimony because they refuse to concede that Solaris is that intelligent, and pull him off the Station.
  • Oddly Small Organization: Justified, in that the station is designed to hold 80 people, but most of them have either been recalled to Earth for psychological reasons, or killed themselves. In fact, Kris' mission is to asses whether it's worth contining with the project at all.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: Hari to Kris. Later on, Kris to Hari.
  • Posthumous Character: Gibarian, Hari
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Bach's "Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ" in Solaris is used as Hari's theme.
  • Quest for Identity: One of the main themes of the film. To what extent is Visitor Hari merely a facsimile of a deceased person, to what extent is she an effective reincarnation of Hari or even a person in her own right?
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Becomes An Aesop of all things.
  • Sanity Slippage: Possibly everyone, even the audience
  • Smash Cut: A particularly brutal one cutting from the "30 seconds of weightlessness" to Hari's attempted suicide by liquid oxygen.
  • Space Clothes: Kris Kelvin wears a black leather jacket, green mesh top, tight grey pants, black boots, and a white jumpsuit.
  • Space Station: The station orbiting Solaris was built to house dozens of scientists, but the staff has been whittled down to only three.
  • Starfish Aliens: The ocean is supposed to be some sort of alien, as are the visitors such as Hari.
  • Stay with the Aliens: Apparently Kris's fate. The final shot reveals him to be in a recreation of his father's dacha, in the middle of the Solaris ocean. The consciousness that created the dacha didn't get it quite right, though—it rains inside the house.
  • Super Strength: The Visitors. Hari rips her way through a steel door.
  • The Stinger: The very last scene.
  • Take That: Older Burton's film of his interrogation as a younger man is an attack on Gos Kino. Burton is clearly a Tarokvsky self-insert and the interrogators are metaphors of the Soviet film censorship committee. Burton tries to convince his questioners of the validity of all these wonderful things that he has seen on Solaris but the interrogators reject his claims. When they are shown a film of the events, they see nothing extraordinary. Tarkovsky is saying that the film censors are stupid philistines and try to censor his works only because they do not understand art.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Kris Kelvin tries to kill one of the projections of Hari by stuffing her into a rocket and firing it into space. It does him no good.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Kris Kelvin's estate looks like a typical Russian dacha and the cars are late 1960s/early 1970s, but there are also viewscreens, fast spaceships, and the station orbiting Solaris. A monologue says that investigation of Solaris had been going on for decades.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Kris and Hari. Kris is a sweaty, balding middle age man while Hari is very beautiful and played by a 21 year old actress. One justification for the age gap is that the "real" Hari has been dead for ten years by the time the action of the film takes place.
  • Unknown Phenomenon: Solaris is shown to be partially intelligent.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The Visitors are people conjured out of peoples' memories.
  • Used Future: The space station in Solaris is falling to pieces and covered in trash due to the scientists going mad and dying or leaving. One of the few times viewers can see litter on a space station. The aesthetic of the space station corresponds quite well with how a 70s citizen of the Soviet Union might have imagined the future.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Implicated at the end that this is one of the things Kris wanted all along.
  • What Is This Thing You Call Love?. Kris has a long monologue towards the end where he ponders the nature of love.
    Kris: You love that which you can lose, yourself, a woman, a country.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Hari's central dilemma, as she is quite aware she is an artificial construction.
  • Zeerust: Most of the facility save for the obviously industrial areas.

Soylent GreenSeiun AwardA New Hope
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Sling BladeCreator/The Criterion CollectionSome Like It Hot
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Silent RunningScience Fiction FilmsSolaris (2002)
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