I remember the day when I first saw Solaris in my school days. The day I saw this movie it was at midnight on home TV. Those time DD(Delhi Durodarshon) used to broadcast every Friday a wonderful movie at night 11pm, but now they are not doing this anymore. Films of great masters like Tarokovosky, bergman, fellini, Satyjit Ray etc are often broadcasted through TV. I was just mesmerized by the visual, by that night when I was alone watching Solaris, the night all quiet in home and outside, in a cold, dark atmosphere.
Later day I discussed this film with my friends but more I was in magical trance of this movie. This movie is visually hypnotic and thematically nearby film on love, conscience, and reconciliation. Again I have seen this movie few days back, and this time I watched with little more maturity. Solaris is considered a science-fiction film. But not as usual known science fiction films likes Star Wars, Alien and The Terminator etc. No lesser gun, special spaceship, alien or this one nothing like a cliché science fiction. Tarokovsky treated this movie amazingly and a genuine exploration of human life in science genre. Solaris is the only Tarkovsky film based around a love story.
Tarkovsky writes in his brilliant book, Sculpting in Time, Solaris is only by chance a science-fiction film. He explains:
Unfortunately the science fiction element in Solaris was nonetheless too prominent and became a distraction. The rockets and space stations - required by [Stanislaw] Lem’s novel - were interesting to construct; but it seems to me now that the idea of the film would have stood out more vividly and boldly had we managed to dispense with these things altogether.
Stanislaw Lem was not agreed with output of his novel Solaris as film. There was some argument with Tarkovsky about treatment of the movie and changes Tarkovsky made. Basically Stanislaw Lem does not like the movie solaris as he said “I never really liked Tarkovsky's version of Solaris.”
But Tarkovsky is clear about this point when he writes in Sculpting in Time:
I have to say at the outset that not all prose can be transferred to the screen. Some works have a wholeness, and are endowed with a precise and original literary image; characters are drawn in unfathomable depths; the composition has an extraordinary capacity for enchantment, and the book is indivisible;
Solaris as a film ultimately came out an wonderful piece of artwork with stunning visual. Bergman stated that, “set of Solaris should be preserved.”
Tarkovsky with actors of solaris on solarisi set
Dr. Kelvin, who is a psychologist by training, as we see later in the film, is mourning the death of his wife. Two men walk up to the Chris’s house. They come to tell Chris that, “The Solaris crew is transmitting puzzling data.” Chris is to go out to the station and confirm whether this is true. If proven, the station will have to be shut down. We see a documentary film that shows, Henri Burton, the astronaut who filmed it, is suggesting that the planet that the station orbits is intelligent. A scientific discussion that makes out that the “problem” is lies in Burton and not with the planet. The next scene, Chris in space is heading for Solaris. Once he enters the space station, Dr. Snaut tells Dr. Kelvin that one of the three men onboard has committed suicide after the “trouble” began.
And gradually we are involved and confronted with a new level of metaphysical phenomena; we see strange occurrences and uncomfortable situations that force us to make sense of our human condition, those are beyond logic. Chris attempts to solve the enigma of the “personality disorders” that the others on the station are experiencing and he found himself in the situation. The suspense and anxiety are relatively evolved around the movie and it is spreading to the viewers. Spirituality along with human physical existence is one of the dominant themes of the film. This theme is developed alongside of Chris’ internal struggle to understand his wife’s sudden appearances. The character of Chris evolved according to his internal struggles and not through outward action or in a flat presentation.
According to Gibarian what is taking place is indescribable. It is the planet solaris which is doing all this. That’s reasonable on the basis of unknown of universe and limitation of human knowledge. Here Tarkovsky present us beautifully how human fight back with strange occurrences and our understanding of core value of human existence. Tarkovsky presents the viewer with the genuine possibility of adapting a new notion of what we regard as understanding of some basics. We are not introduced to beings from another world that will enlighten us with some new truth or not knowing of some new knowledge, a discovery. It is our relationship to us, it is how we see us in a mirror, knowing us individually and spiritually, that Tarkovsky explores and reflects in his films. His concern is not with scientific exploration but with the living of homosapien and explore them and to understand them. Again Tarkovsky has done this with rational scientific approach. For which everything he does is convincing for its sets, makeup, visuals etc.
Another theme of the film is the importance of memories in our lives; this is one of core concern of solaris. Tarkovsky’s treated this wonderfully as when Chris’s wife, Hari, dies again on the space station and Chris is forced to experience loss once again. The new memories start to emerge in new situation. Chris sees Hari again when he wakes up to find a young woman sitting on a chair facing him. She comes and kisses him. When Chris asks her where she came from, she just says. “How wonderful.” And, after Chris asks her how she knew that he was there, she becomes confused and asks, “What do you mean?” Chris began to fight with his own radical mind and to resolve the situation he puts Hari on a rocket and launches her into space. Chris is reacting to what he considers a hallucination on his part and creating closure of the past. For a shock to Chris when Snaut reveals to him: “It’s the materialization of your memory of her.” Snaut explains that the problems began when “we finished the experiment of beaming x-rays down at the ocean’s surface. Apparently the x-rays enabled the ocean to explore all the little islands of our memory.” Really this one is fantastic treatment in the movie and an interesting situation as we see us in our own confrontation. Solaris is digging up us in to deeper and deeper, to our heart, to our soul, to our existence, to our love, our feelings etc..etc..to all.
Possible explanations that Chris shows onboard, he feels the emotions suck out by these experiences. The relationship that exists between his true “internal” memories and the hallucinatory, external ones is experiencing everything same as physical on the station. This is easily evidenced when Hari cannot remember or make sense of her self, or her past, because she does not exist for herself, but only for Chris with the power of solaris. When she start explores her in the regard, she finds a negation of herself. Chris initiates a conversation with Hari that may be interpreted as actually being a conversation with himself: actually with his own memories. Hari presses him to tell her what or who she really is and the film is heading in a new direction from this point. Now this is about how we are dealing with what is eternal or how we connect with others. One is how linked with another. One is how linked with another beyond physical. The being “I” is how related to “you” or “you” is how related to “me”.
Thus, the film ends as it starts, with scenes of flowing water and Chris walking around the woods by his father’s house. But his return home is more than just a physical return, now Chris is enlightened. In visiting the space station, Chris discovered a sense of cosmic mystery, the unknown, how to approach towards unknown, he discovered belief and love around this earth that he must retain in his earthly existence, even if he is in a space station light years away. This is the strongest suggestion that Tarkovsky makes at the end of the film. Chris explores the nature surrounds his father’s what is vital in human existence. At the end, Tarkovsky’s is juxtaposing final scene of what is vital and presence situation of overbroad in space station in neutral, even terrifying but brilliant way. Solaris’ ocean signifies a realm of big materialistic universe, not the other half as we know dark mater, more visual space time which related to pure consciousness, acts of awakening, responsibilities that human govern and conduct humbly.
A hollywood version Solaris was made later, directed by Steven Soderbergh, but this one not going anywhere...as usual trapped under hollywood cliche.
Ascension: One of the beautiful scene of love in movie history, love as it protected by human treasure as art, music etc.