Film Diary: Solaris (Солярис) (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)

Saturday, 29 March 2008


This is a rum old thing: as big and sprawling and ramshackle as only a Russian film, and especially one from the days of communism, could be. Not that anything much shorter would have done justice to the big sprawling themes, or to the snse of brooding insanity haunting the survivors of the kind of Heath Robinson space station you might just expect the Soviet Union to put into orbit around a planet that seems to have a sentient intelligence all of its own, and is probing the minds of the cosmonauts to the point of dementure by sending them three-dimentional hallucinations drawn from their own memories.

Kris the psychologist is sent to the station, clad only in a grubby string vest, to find out what is going on, only to be drawn into the game himself when his ten-years-dead wife Hari appears in his bunk. Trying to blast her off into space doesn’t help, she just comes straight back. Just to make it worse, the apparition starts to get more and more human, and then things get seriously weird.

At nearly three hours, with not an awful lot going on, this might seem a bit of a grim prospect, but this is more psychological thriller than space opera and the tension is maintained very well. There’s nothing glamorous about it, which is refreshing in a way. The space station looks like my bedroom after a bad day and everybody looks so terribly Russian. In places it ought to be sexy and doubtless a Russian might find it so, bit like Anna Karenina it somehow manages to bypass sexiness whatever its merits.

An evening well filled then, but I have just one gripe about the DVD – or rather DVDs because it comes on two and I’ve had to wait for both to be here together. I did try to get it to play with original Russian dialogue with English subtitles, but somehow it’s all been bodged. Dialogue was mostly dubbed into English that sounded silly, but now and then it would lapse into Russian. I felt much more comfortable when it was in Russian – I’m not strong enough in the language to follow it wthout subtitles, but I hate dubbing and at least when the dialogue was Russian the actors looked and sounded a lot more natural.


One Response to “Film Diary: Solaris (Солярис) (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)”

  1. Alec Macpherson Says:

    Ha, I watched Tarkovsky’s Mirror last week and there was a real life re-creation of a Brueghal-like snowscape. And, of course, Bach was playing in the background.

    ==> bit like Anna Karenina

    A warning against going to catch a train on PMT.

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