Saturday, May 28, 2011

SOLARIS (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972, USSR)

Kris Kelvin travels millions of miles to combat an alien consciousness…his own. Andrei Tarkovsky’s existential masterpiece is an introspective journey into a foreign world, where the cold sea can wash away sin or drown the victim in its sentient embrace.

Tarkovsky begins the story as Kris Kelvin wanders contemplatively around his father’s farmhouse, focusing upon the rippling waters and green spindly tendrils, the rich abundance of life and energy on Earth. He argues with his father and burns his past, its ashes drifting away into the ether…but regrets always write their indelible text upon our psyches. Tarkovsky’s narrative dichotomy to Earth imparts a sense of longing and loneliness for Kelvin: he is isolated and disheveled upon arriving at the neglected space station, its gray and foreboding interior a reflection of Kelvin’s dejection. The surviving scientists are caught in their own traps, their dire warnings too vague and obtuse for understanding. Sleep soon brings the deep-rooted fears and bitter anxieties to flesh, to once again be opposed, a divine torture gifted from the tumultuous seas below, a watery intelligence who grasps at their minds attempting to communicate. But the scientists want to destroy what they fail to understand.

Kris must confront a simulacrum of his ex-wife Hari, who killed herself because she could not live without him. This façade is plucked from his mind and she is created in his mental image, with all of her flaws and weaknesses…as remembered and imagined by Kris. I think this is an important distinction and why Kris ultimately fails: Hari is form to his own biased and anxious emotions, soc when she committed suicide Kris believed it to be his fault. He spirals deeper and deeper into depression and remorse unable to reciprocate her unconditional love; time after time redemption trickles through his fingers like water. But this automaton is becoming human in its own way, and makes the one final selfless decision for love, revealing Kris’s egocentrism because he can’t believe she would make that sacrifice for him, proving that Kris didn’t understand the “real” Hari at all.

Tarkovsky’s beautiful cinematography varies between color and black and white to show Kris’s mental state, his gradual loss of sanity: the past, present, and delusion becoming one continuum. The detail to the set design is magnificent and adds an unused and hebephrenic disorder to the visuals and subtext that creates an absolutely realistic environment. Ironically, Kris willingly becomes a prisoner to the garden of Earthly delights, a Boschian purgatory given substance on Solaris.

Final Grade: (A+)


Shubhajit said...

What a fascinating movie this was! A film of grand vision & complex philosophical undertones (no, make that overtones), Solaris remains an essential arthouse watch - the kind of film that will either stun you with its profundity and melancholia, or leave you tearing hair off from your head. Great review of this Tarkovsky masterpiece!!!

Jack L said...

Most excellent review!

I thought this was a very good film, however it is possibly one of my least favourite of Tarkovsky's work, I far preferred The Mirror, The Sacrifice, Stalker and Andrei Rublev.
But in a way, each of his films were masterpieces, so I agree with your review!

Alex DeLarge said...

Thanks friends! The new Criterion blu-ray is a revelation, so don't forget THE SACRIFICE is being released in high-def soon! I need to review STALKER but waiting for a decent quality disc.

Chase Kahn said...

"Stalker" is my favorite Tarkovsky, a lot to chew on there, but picking your favorite Tarkovsky is too difficult, they're all great.