Solaris (1972 / 2002)


D: Andrei Tarkovsky

Mosfilm (Viacheslav Tarasov)

USSR 1972

166 mins

Science Fiction

W: Fridrikh Gorenshtein & Andrei Tarkovsky

DP: Vadim Yusov

Ed: Lyudmila Feiginova

Mus: Eduard Artemyev

Donatas Banionis (Kris Kelvin), Vladimir Zamansky (voice of Kris Kelvin), Natalya Bondarchuk (Hari), Juri Jarvet (Dr. Snaut), Vladislav Dvorzehtsky (Henri Berton)

The Soviet Union's equivalent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, though you shouldn't expect anything even faintly resembling Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece here. They are both very different films, despite both being part of the "thinking man's" science fiction sub-genre.

The plot follows a psychologist who is sent to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris to investigate why the crew who are based there have gone insane, and shortly upon his arrival, he begins to hallucinate visions of his dead wife.

The narrative crawls along at snail's pace, which doesn't make the film an easy watch, particularly because it's in the Russian language, so to say you need to be in the mood for this film is a massive understatement.

I'm actually sorry to say that I wasn't in the mood for this at the time of watching, which was quite late at night and probably when I was unable to give the film the full focus that it needed. Even so, I can appreciate what it wanted to be and understand why it's hailed as a 'must watch' from world cinema, but that doesn't stop it from being very, very slow and very, very Russian. 




D: Steven Soderbergh

20th Century Fox/Lightstorm (James Cameron & Jon Landau)

US 2002

98 mins

Science Fiction

W: Steven Soderbergh [based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem]

DP: Peter Andrews

Ed: Mary Ann Bernard

Mus: Cliff Martinez

George Clooney (Dr. Chris Kelvin), Natascha McElhone (Rheya), Viola Davis (Dr. Gordon), Jeremy Davies (Snow), Ulrich Tukur (Gibarian)

I wasn’t a huge fan of the original Russian 1972 movie, Solaris, even though I had appreciation for its influence in the science fiction genre. Nevertheless, I gave this 2002 remake a chance to give me a fresh perspective, but this bored me even more, despite being significantly shorter.

The plot is much the same, starring George Clooney as a scientist who travels to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris and begins to have hallucinatory visions of his departed wife.

I do enjoy cerebral science fiction movies (such as Blade Runner, Ex Machina, Twelve Monkeys, etc.), but I have to find them engaging, which is where I really struggled with both this and its 1972 counterpart.

It’s clear that the original film was an influence to both director Steven Soderbergh and producer James Cameron and its admirable that they decided to remake it to put their own trademark stamp on it, and though the production values and visual effects are several steps up in quality, I just found the storyline boring.   Just like the original film, I think it’s something you really have to be in the mood for in order to dissect it all in greater detail.


George Clooney in Solaris
George Clooney in Solaris