Solaris (1972)

Genres - Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Sci-Fi, Space Adventure  |   Run Time - 165 min.  |   Countries - USSR  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Conceived partly as the anti-2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972) weaves a hypnotic fable about love, humanity, and memory out of its science fiction premise. Reinstating the detritus of everyday existence absent from 2001's future vision, Tarkovsky's tracking shots and long takes reveal the space station's claustrophobia and decay; the beautiful early images of nature further underline the ugly, dehumanizing effects of technology. Shifts between color and black-and-white, an enticingly old-fashioned space station library, and the evocatively ambiguous ending interweave past and present, as pragmatist Kelvin's re-acquaintance with his dead wife, Khari, suggests the dramatic stakes of trying to erase the past . Regardless of the political message that could be inferred regarding the Soviet bureaucracy, Solaris was the rare Tarkovsky film that avoided extensive mandated edits and received a relatively normal U.S.S.R. release; it was, however, cut by 35 minutes by the American distributor in 1976. Restored to its original length in 1990, Solaris has garnered more and more fans for its cerebral yet rapturous inquiry into what it means to be human.