Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Written by Fridrikh Gorenshtein and Andrei Tarkovsky
Produced by Viavheslav Tarasov
Starring: Natalya Bondarchuck, Donatas Bonjonis, Jun Jarvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky, Nikolai Grinko and Anatoly Solonityn
Country: Soviet Union
Running time: 165 minutes
Release date: May 13, 1972
“We don’t want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man! “
This film is an adaptation of the Polish Novel “Solaris” by Stanislaw Lem. This is a really hard and complex sci-fi film with hints of a psychological drama. Solaris is one of the two more recognizable Tarkovsky’s films, the other one is “Stalker”. Both films are stunning and ahead of their time.
This movie is more than a sci-fi and it’s a great psychological or better said philosophical thriller, that pose several and very interesting philosophical questions and plays with the subjective nature of memory and bunch of other inangible subjects.
Solaris is a rather long film, 3 hours long, and rather slow with what it seems to be dry dialogue; but all of this with a good reason: the sake of the story and to provide the a proper emotional depth. Most of the people had said that Solaris takes to watch it more to understand it or even like it. but after this you will be able to see the over all of the movie as a beautiful film in technique and story.
Psychologist Kris Kelvin spends his last day on Earth reflecting on his life while walking by a lake near his childhood home where his elderly father still lives. Kelvin is about to embark on an interstellar journey to a space station orbiting the remote oceanic planet Solaris. After decades of study, the scientific mission at the space station has barely progressed in its goal of understanding the planet. To make matters worse, most of the crew has succumbed to a series of emotional crises. Kelvin is dispatched to evaluate the situation aboard ship and determine whether the venture should continue.
Henri Burton, a former space pilot, visits Kelvin. They watch film footage of Burton’s own testimony years before of seeing an over-sized child on the ocean surface of Solaris while searching for two lost scientists. However, the cameras of his craft recorded only clouds and the flat ocean surface; Burton’s report was dismissed as hallucinations. After failing to convince Kelvin of the truth of his experience, Burton leaves angrily only to later call Kelvin. He explains that he met the child of a scientist lost in that mission, and the child was reminiscent of the one he saw on Solaris.
Before departing Earth for Solaris, Kelvin destroys most of his personal mementos in a bonfire, noting the volume of keepsakes he has accumulated. In Kelvin’s last conversation with his father, they realize that the father will not live to see Kelvin return. Although he readily accepted the mission, it is a choice that weighs heavily upon Kelvin’s conscience.
Upon arrival at the Solaris space station, none of the three remaining scientists meet Kelvin, who finds the disarrayed space station dangerously neglected. He soon learns that his friend among the scientists, Dr. Gibarian, has mysteriously died. The two surviving crewmen are unhelpful, and give contradicting and confusing information. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Snaut warns Kelvin not to overreact if he sees anything “unusual” on board the station. However, Kelvin soon glimpses other people aboard the station. While Kelvin sends news of the chaos on board the station, the oceans of Solaris begin swirling on the planet’s surface.
Waking exhausted from a restless sleep, Kelvin finds a woman with him in his quarters despite the barricaded door. To his surprise, it is Hari, his late wife who committed suicide some years before. However, she is mysteriously unaware of having committed suicide on Earth, and she is equally puzzled as to her presence in Kelvin’s quarters. Grasping that she is a psychological construct brought on by the mysterious effects of Solaris, he lures her to a spacecraft and launches the illusion of his wife into outer space. In his haste to be rid of her, he is burned by the rocket’s blast. Dr. Snaut tends his burns and explains that the “visitors” began appearing after the scientists attracted the attention of Solaris, seemingly a sentient entity.
That evening, Hari reappears in his quarters. This time calm, Kelvin embraces Hari through the night. Later, Kelvin causes her to panic when she discovers the clothes of the first apparition and tries to leave the room. She beats her way through the room’s metal door, severely cutting herself. Kelvin carries her back to his bed, where her injuries heal before his eyes. Dr. Sartorius calls for a meeting, and Kelvin introduces Hari as his wife, insisting they treat her respectfully. In their symposium, the scientists begin to understand that Solaris created Hari from Kelvin’s memories of his dead wife. The Hari present among them, though not human, thinks and feels as though she were. Sartorius theorizes the visitors are composed of neutrinos and that it might be possible to destroy them.
Kelvin shows Hari films of himself and his parents when he was a boy and, later, of his wife. While she is asleep, Snaut proposes beaming Kelvin’s brainwave patterns at Solaris in hopes that it will understand them and stop the disturbing apparitions as communication. However, Sartorius suggests a radical attack of heavy radiation bombardment. In time, Hari becomes independent and is able to exist beyond Kelvin’s sight. She learns from Sartorius that the original Hari had committed suicide ten years earlier, and Kelvin is forced to tell her the entire story. Distressed, Hari kills herself again by drinking liquid oxygen, only to painfully, spasmodically resurrect a few minutes later. On the surface of Solaris, the ocean is moving even faster.
In a fevered sleep, Kelvin dreams of his mother and of many Haris walking about his quarters. When he awakens, Hari is gone, and Snaut reads him the good-bye note she wrote him. The note indicates that Hari asked the scientists to kill her. Snaut tells Kelvin that since they broadcast Kelvin’s brainwaves at Solaris, the visitors stopped appearing, and islands began forming on the planet’s surface. Kelvin debates whether or not to return to Earth or to descend to Solaris in hope of reconnecting with everything he has loved and lost.
Again at the shore of the frozen lake, Kelvin finds himself at his father’s house. His dog runs to him, and he happily walks towards it. He realizes something is wrong when he sees water is falling inside the house but is unnoticed by his father, who appears in the house. Father and son embrace on the front step of the lakeside house, on an island in the middle of an ocean on Solaris.