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Film / Solaris (1972)

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You may be looking for Solaris, the 2002 film adaptation of the same novel, directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Solaris is a 1972 film from the Soviet Union, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Kris Kelvin, a psychologist, is sent into space. Specifically, he is sent to a space station which orbits around the planet Solaris. Kelvin's mission is to evaluate the conditions on the station and determine whether or not the station should be maintained. He arrives at the space station and finds it badly deteriorated. He expected to find a three-man crew, but one of the three crew members—his old friend, Dr. Gilbarian—has killed himself. The other two members of the crew seem completely uninterested in helping Dr. Kelvin or answering his questions. After getting some sleep, Kelvin wakes up, and gets a terrible shock. Somehow, his wife Hari, who has been dead for many years, materializes on the space station.

Andrei Tarkovsky's adaptation of Stanisław 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.

Eduard Artemyev composed the score.

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.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Hari, when she goes into spasm after drinking liquid oxygen.
  • Body Horror: The injuries Hari suffers.
  • Bookends: The rain scene in the end mirrors the one at the beginning of the movie.
  • Bus Crash: Visitor Hari asked Snaut and Sartorious to destroy her, presumably with the annihilator, as her farewell letter to Kris reveals.
  • 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.
  • Came Back Wrong: Hari appears to be a resurrected version of Kris's dead wife, but her mind is only filled with memories she shared with Kris and nothing more. Because of this she's filled with fear, confusion, and existential despair at the self she cannot access, and has a tendency to self-harm if left alone for too long. This is torture to 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: Gibarian and Hari, although for the latter 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.
  • 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.
  • Existential Horror: The lead female character realizes that she is merely a memory of Chris's late wife who was Driven to Suicide and recreated by Solaris, the living ocean planet, to study and torment her husband. Her recollections of the past are incomplete and limited to what Chris knew about her. This discovery brings her to tears and leaves her depressed, and she then tries to kill herself multiple times, which proves to be hard due to her new nature, but she eventually succeeds in that.
  • Expendable Clone: A horrified Kris puts Hari in a rocket and launches her into space. The Solaris ocean promptly creates another Hari.
  • Fade to White: The last scene fades to white.
  • Fan Disservice: Hari's nipples poke through her shirt when she resurrects after taking the liquid oxygen. Mood Whiplash, though, coming after such an emotionally devastating scene.
  • Fetus Terrible: One hypothesis about the nature of Solaris.
  • Flyaway Shot: The movie ends with the camera flying away from the house, giving us an areal view of the location which turns out to be an isle on 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.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: The last scene where it's raining inside the house. The ocean downloaded the memory from Kris' mind but recreated the virtual reality imperfectly. Hence the rain is falling indoors and not outside.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Burton after his flight over the Ocean, at least according to the heads of Solaristics.
  • Harmless Freezing: A terrifying turn on this. You can drink liquid oxygen and revive, if you are a clone created by a mysterious Genius Loci.
  • 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, who frequently talks to himself in his native German.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Visitors 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.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Sartorius' introduction scene has him trying to keep a small man in a hospital gown from escaping the laboratory. It is the first truly weird scene in the film.
  • 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.
  • Mind Screw: The plot and setting of the film are rather strange and hard to follow. Reason for this is that the film is heavily based on a novel which heavily relied on the narrator giving massive Info Dumps to give backstory and explain things. The film, meanwhile, leans away from Sci-Fi and more toward a psychological, philosophical, introspective bent. Because the emotions and questions posed by the film are more important than the plot itself, that plot isn't really explained, and can thus be quite difficult 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.
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: According to what we're told by Snaut, the Visitors can endure being shot, overdosed on narcotics, and other injuries which humans would find crippling, if not fatal.
  • 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 assess whether it's worth continuing 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 Goskino USSR. Burton is clearly a Tarkovsky 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.
  • Title Card: The movie is split into two parts which are announced using title cards.
  • 20 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, greying 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.
  • Undead Barefooter: Hari is an unusual example: she's not literally undead, but she's a replica of a deceased person. And she's perpetually barefoot, probably to signify that she's not an ordinary human.
  • 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.
  • Zip Me Up: At one point Kris helps Hari untie her dress in his quarters.