26 April 2017



This is a highly unusual, complicated and visually stunning film. It's widely regarded as one of the best science fiction films ever made. Film critic Roger Ebert and controversial author Salman Rushdie both rate it highly. The latter considers it to be 'a sci-fi masterpiece,' in fact. It clocks in at a whopping two and three-quarter hours and yet it never feels over-long at any stage. Why is that?

Well, I may not be able to unlock too many of this extraordinary film's secrets in this review, which after all is only a review, but I can certainly dish up a few piping-hot plot spoilers in five minutes flat, so come on y'all, pull up a chair. Dinner is served...

The film stars, of course, the Earth in all her tangible glory, but that's not all. It also features a fictional planet called Solaris, which has a magnificent and mesmerising Ocean attached to it. We never see anyone actually setting foot on Solaris, however.

The closest we get to it is by watching the actions and reactions of the cosmonauts in the space station that perpetually orbits the planet Solaris. Just lately, however, some rather confusing, even bewildering, transmissions have been reaching Earth from the three remaining members of the Solaris space station crew. I mean, like, wtf...?

Enter Kris Kelvin, the incredibly handsome-in-a-nice-solid-manly-kind-of-way cosmonaut and psychologist who's called in to go up to the space station and find out exactly what's up with the crew. Who or what has been messing with their heads? Have they got plain old cabin fever or are there more sinister forces at work? We shall see, dear readers. We shall see...

Kris duly says goodbye to his parents and the family dog, who all live in a lovely big house in the absolutely beautiful Russian countryside. The trees, the river, the greenery, the sky, it's all gorgeous. And so real, too, in comparison to the more sterile and surreal world of the inside of the space station, which is kind of like a giant spaceship with endless corridors and all the mod cons of the time.

But of course the inhabitants don't breathe any real fresh air there or see any real sky or trees through their windows or hear any birds singing. There's nothing but the silent but somehow menacing presence of Solaris, the planet that's driven men nearly to madness in the past trying to unlock its secrets. 

You know the way they say that in space, no-one can hear you scream? There's something very frightening about a vast, endless ocean of nothingness and that comes across clearly in SOLARIS.

One thing we learn for sure in this film, however, is about man's woeful inadequacy when it comes to making contact with the creatures or beings who people these parallel worlds. Why should Kelvin succeed where others have failed or indeed lost their minds?

Before Kelvin leaves Earth for Solaris, in fact, he meets with Berton, a chap who's served time on the space station only to be driven nearly insane by terrifying visions that the experts call 'hallucinations,' but which were frighteningly real to Berton. Berton gets very upset when it seems like Kelvin is sceptical of his experiences also. I wouldn't worry too much about it, Berton. Kelvin will learn. He will learn...

Although I personally have a soft spot for the sexy, cuddly Kelvin, most folks seem to agree that the actress Natalya Bondarchuk steals the show as Kelvin's beautiful wife, Hari. I won't tell you how, where or why she comes into the picture as it may give too much away, but I can tell you this much. For Kelvin, her appearance will either cause him great pain or occasion him much joy. A chance to right old wrongs, or just an experience too painful to relive a second, third and even fourth time...?

There's no sex in the film, by the way, but sometimes you don't need to see tits-and-ass and other stuff like that for a film to be sexy. Every interaction between Kelvin and Hari has a sensuality to it that transcends mere sexual activity and becomes almost spiritual, like when two people meet who are soul-mates and everything they do together has a sensual feel to it, even ordinary things like taking a walk together or putting the kettle on for a nice cup of tea.

The good news is that this long but utterly worthwhile film with the marvellous special effects is out now on special release thanks to THE CRITERION COLLECTION. 

It comes with a load of fantastic extra features, including video interviews with not only the leading actress Natalya Bondarchuk, but also with the film's cinematographer Vadim Yusov, its art director Mikhail Romadin and its composer Eduard Artemyev, who composed a fabulous electronic score for the movie to complement the classical music (Bach) that was used in it also.

Speaking of Bach and other cultural icons, the set designs feature paintings by the Old Masters. Apparently, this was the director Andrei Tarkovsky's attempt to give the relatively young medium of cinema a wider historical context by marrying the two (completely different or not-so-different-at-all?) media in an otherworldly wedding of the young to the old, the youthful to the positively ancient.

So if you feel like you've accidentally assimilated more than your daily dose of culture, that's why, haha. Like the mother who sneaks veggies into her kids' grub in an attempt to make 'em healthier, the director's inveigled a load of culture into your cinematic experience and you've been positively enriched without even knowing it. Bada-bing, bada-boom, you're done. Bob's your Uncle, the job's oxo and all that other incomprehensible stuff. Happy viewing...!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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