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Solaris View full size

Solaris

172057

Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuck, Andrei Tarkovsky, Yuri Yarvet, Anatoli Solonitsyn, Vatsalv Dvorzhetsky, Nikolai Grinko, Sos Sarkissyan, Vitalik Kerdimun, Olga Kizilova

Psychological drama from Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, adapted from the Stanislaw Lem novel of the same name. The film charts the strange events which befall a group of young cosmonauts who work on a space...


£13.99

15.99

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Psychological drama from Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, adapted from the Stanislaw Lem novel of the same name. The film charts the strange events which befall a group of young cosmonauts who work on a space station orbiting the ocean-covered planet Solaris. Fellow cosmonaut Chris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is sent to investigate the occurrences, and soon begins encountering a variety of supernatural phenomena, including the physical manifestation of his own painful memories of his now-dead wife. Kelvin tries to get to the bottom of the mystery and begins looking for a way to communicate with the powerful forces of Solaris.
  • Featuring Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuck, Andrei Tarkovsky, Yuri Yarvet, Anatoli Solonitsyn, Vatsalv Dvorzhetsky, Nikolai Grinko, Sos Sarkissyan, Vitalik Kerdimun, Olga Kizilova
  • Directors Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Other Cast Vadim Yusov, Eduard Artemev, Andrei Tarkovsky, Friedrich Gorenstein
  • Running time 166 minutes
  • Certification 12
  • Languages Russian
  • Region 2
  • Subtitles Yes
  • Format DVD
  • Year 1972
  • Release Date 08/08/2016
  • Number of Discs 1
  • Colour Col & B/W
  • Label Fusion Media Sales
  • RRP 15.99
  • Country of Origin USSR
  • Based on The novel by Stanislaw Lem
  • Subtitle Languages English
  • Original Language Russian

Andrei Tarkovsky’s first foray into SF was a calculated gamble after the all-powerful Soviet film bureau Mosfilm kept knocking back the director’s pet autobiographical project A White, White Day, which would finally morph into 1974’s Mirror.


The director’s adaptation of Polish author Stanislaw Lern’s popular novel is based on a highly personalised reading. Where Lern examines the thrills and frustrations of scientific discovery at the far reaches of the cosmos, Tarkovsky is mostly concerned with interior battles of guilt, conscience and atonement.

In the book all the action takes place on a space station orbiting the planet Solaris. But in another break from its source, the film begins on earth with extended shots of the simple wonders of nature around the dacha where psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) has come to say farewell to his parents before heading out into the vast beyond. Kelvin also consults grounded astronaut Burton (Vladislav Dvorzhetsky), who witnessed disturbing hallucinations on a previous mission to Solaris, but broadly dismisses the former flyer’s ominous warnings.

When he arrives at the space station, Kelvin discovers dishevelled and cagey crew members Snaut (Jüri Järvet) and Sartorious (Anatoliy Solonitsyn) have allowed the vessel to fall into a state of shabby disrepair. A third astronaut is dead, and has left behind a video message confirming that he was driven to take his own life.

We learn that the planet is entirely covered by a vast, sentient sea that is somehow capable of reading human minds and reproducing memories that take on a bodily form. On the night of his arrival Kelvin’s cool rationality is tested by an apparition of his long-dead ex-wife Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk). A perfect physical replica, this Kari is driven by an unquestioning dependence on Kelvin, but she has to piece together the details of her past by probing Kelvin’s memory. Understanding that she’s a phantom, Kelvin tricks her and ejects he from the spacecraft. But memories are not so easily expunged, and Hari keeps regenerating.

As the tragic consequences of Kelvin’s past actions encircle and overpower him in the shape of his beautiful, doomed wife, what follows is an eerily engrossing examination of guilt, regret and – hopefully – the transformative power of love. For Tarkovsky, the central struggle in all human development is between a general dissipation of ethical principles, and a contrary yearning for moral ideals. It’s a battle we contend with daily as individuals and societies, and cannot be resolved unless we forsake material longing in favour of spiritual truth.

The film may sometimes falter visually in its now-dated vision of the future, and many of the special effects are charmingly clunky, but for Tarkovsky this was never a story about sleek rockets and big science or the terrifying grandeur of deep space, but a delicate exploration of the human soul.

Read our Viewer's Guide to the films of Andrei Tarkovsky

See also Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 adaptation starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone.

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