Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and released in it’s home country of the Soviet Union in 1972.
This review was written on August 14th 2011.
I’ll start off by saying that I had already seen Steven Soderbergh’s remake of this years and years prior to viewing Andrei Tarkovsky’s original today. On top of that I am a huge fan of Tarkovsky and I consider him to be one of the greatest directors to ever put images onto celluloid. Having said that, I was minutely (not severely hence the rating of 10/10) disappointed by this feature. It definitely had everything I was expecting, but I was not expecting the story to so heavily focus on the relationship between Kris & Hari. That, however, is my only qualm with Solyaris.
The plot is mainly concerned with the Solyaris Ocean and the mysteries which lie beneath it as well as what it seems to do to the human mind. In the past, there have been many who’ve tried to overcome and understand the ocean but to no avail, and seemingly always ending with bad results: Insanity or death. You would think that would twist the film into a tale of mortality but it doesn’t even try to do that. As aforementioned, the story swiftly changes its focus onto Kris (the newest member of the latest group of scientists to explore Solyaris) and the apparition of his wife Hari – who has been dead for ten years. The character of Kris goes on to make numerous attempts to come to terms with what is actually going on or rather what he is seeing – what is in his mind.
Even though the director claimed this to be his least favourite out of all of the films he directed, you can tell right off of the bat that this is a Tarkovsky film. The enigmatic director retains his signature atmosphere as well as retaining his stagnant views on mankind which are expressed solely through the dialogue. I’m not sure how much of the dialogue was lifted from the book because I haven’t read it, although I would definitely love to find an English print of it.
The cinematography is beautiful and some of the tracking shots are incredible. I loved the colour changes from black and white and back to colour, there was also a scene that was lit with an almost sepia glow. The colour changes skew your perception of the film, ultimately challenging the viewer to decide whether or not what he is seeing is part of the Solyaris or something else entirely.
In relation to Tarkovsky’s other works, I felt pretty strongly that this didn’t up to the mark of Stalker or Ivan’s Childhood – my two favourite Tarkovsky films, but it is definitely up there in terms of beauty and it’s display of strong-willed characters.
Ultimately, this is a character study as well as an intellectual piece, all done against the back drop of science fiction – which is undoubtedly the field that Tarkovsky most strived in.