Friday, 8 April 2011
Andrei Tarkovsky: Solaris - Солярис (1972) - Full movie with English subtitles
Directed by Andrey Tarkovskiy.
Starring Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Jüri Järvet.
Based on the novel of the same name by Polish science fiction author Stanisław Lem.
Cannes Film Festival 1972 Special Jury Grand Prix
The difference between Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 film Solaris and more recent science fiction is summed up by the contents of the library on the space station suspended over an endlessly changing and apparently sentient alien ocean. The humans - struggling to stay sane as the ocean of Solaris tampers with their memories and consciousness - have Bruegel's Hunters in the Snow hanging in their wood-panelled library, a paradoxically warm and comforting image of hunters coming back empty-handed, cresting a wooded hill at the top of the village, their pack of hounds exhausted, while peasants play on the iced-over ponds in a white hollow below them.
The space station's library also has a bust of the homely looking Athenian sage Socrates and an old copy of Don Quixote from which, in a critical scene, the hero Kris Kelvin quotes the earthy wisdom of Sancho Panza. Contrast this with William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer, in which the prophet of cyberspace describes a wealthy family's orbital villa that contains Marcel Duchamp's The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even), the perfect work of art for a virtual, post-human future. Tarkovsky, on the other hand, puts the most earthly image in art into deep space, and celebrates nostalgia, not futurism; Earth, not space; and humanity, in all its Bruegelian strangeness. His greatest film is about discovering ourselves in the mirror of an alien's mind.
Solaris, based on Stanislaw Lem's 1961 novel, is arguably the best science-fiction film ever made. We're talking about real science fiction, the philosophical, meditative mid-20th-century genre that was more or less destroyed by the success of George Lucas's Star Wars in 1977. Everything fell apart for science fiction after Star Wars. In Britain, even Dr Who lost its confidence and started aping the new "space opera", as Lucas's film was called at the time.
I only mention Doctor Who because, in a strange way, Solaris reminds me of it. The best Doctor Whos, surely, were the ones set on Earth, with the Doctor working as scientific adviser to Unit. Somehow the Master was all the scarier when he materialised in an English country house, and giant maggots were at their creepiest in a Welsh coal mine. This frisson of the uncanny, or unhomely, the intervention of inexplicable irregularities in the cosy and real world, is exploited by Tarkovsky as cleverly as it was by Dr Who. The big change he makes to Lem's novel is to add a long prologue set on Earth. Tarkovsky starts with his protagonist, Kris Kelvin, standing daydreaming at dawn in a mist-saturated, marshy landscape. Actually, it begins before that: with a shot of grasses and plants underwater, before gradually revealing Kris communing with the Russian wetlands.
It is the landscape of Earth that haunts you most throughout the film. The views out of the space station are of swirling clouds and a boiling sea, but there is that painting of the hunters in the library - exactly the painting you would want with you on a space station light years from Earth.
By Jonathan Jones in Guardian