Nikolai Grinko

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Solyaris (1972) Review


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Unhappy with Kubrick's 2001, celebrated Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky concocted his own sci-fi thinkpiece, Solyaris. Involving an alien intelligence that is able to read minds and project (physically?) the thoughts of those who are visiting the planet on which it resides, Solyaris is deep, long (and I mean long), and devilishly confusing (and more reminiscent of THX 1138 than 2001). Primarily seen through the eyes of one scientist who finds his long-deceased wife suddenly alive on Solaryis's planet, if one Kubrick work comes to mind it's actually The Shining. (In later years, the appallingly bad Sphere is an obvious take-off on this film, only the alien is underwater instead of in space.)

Occasionally brilliant, Solyaris speaks to the depth of meaning in men's souls. Some of its visuals are incredible, though many are dull, and at nearly three hours in length, there's too much fodder to make the movie even approaching of a masterpiece (Tarkovsky has stated this is his least favorite film, too). But most to the point: Did I understand it? No. Is it nonetheless a must-see of any sci-fi obsessive? Absolutely. Never mind the subtitles.

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