Article 2851 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-26-2009
Posting Date: 6-3-2009
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Featuring Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Jun Jarvet
Country: Soviet Union
A psychologist is sent to a space station situated near the planet of Solaris, in which a sentient ocean is being studied. He is supposed to report on the strange phenomena surrounding the mission and to give an analysis as to whether the project is to be abandoned. On his arrival, he finds that the ocean is able to project manifestations of the memories of the inhabitants of the station, and encounters his wife, who committed suicide ten years ago.
I’ve heard this ambitious Russian science fiction epic was a classic; I’ve also heard it’s a bore. It is a little bit of the latter; there’s a long driving sequence during the first half of the movie that I really think could have used a little pruning. Nonetheless, I found it a worthy and satisfying (if difficult) movie. It’s one of those that you really have to sit through to the end; for most of the middle of the movie, I didn’t really know how I was feeling about it or what I would have to say about it, but the wind-up of the story somehow made it feel like it was all coming together for me. I won’t pretend to understand it all in its entirety, but it is one I foresee that I’ll be revisiting in the future to dig in deeper, and I always admire a movie that attempts to handle the difficult themes that the best of literary science fiction often deals with. I’d also like to read the novel as well; I’ve read some of the works of Stanislaw Lem, and I like what I’ve found, but I haven’t read this one yet. In short, this is a movie I’d recommend, but with the warning that it requires a certain degree of patience and a compassion for art films.