'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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Driven to Suicide: 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.
- 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.
- Humanoid Abomination: The visitors. They look just like ordinary people, but they are unimaginably strong and they are pretty much impossible to kill.
- 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.
- Used Future: The aesthetic of the space station corresponds quite well with how a 70s citizen of the Soviet Union might have imagined the future.
- Zeerust: Most of the facility save for the obviously industrial areas.