Space has been explored in just about every conceivable way through cinema, literature and television. Whilst action-oriented films usually dominate at the box office, it’s often more subtle psychological sci-fi which leaves a lasting impression. The classic example, which is generally considered the best genre film ever made, is 2001: A Space Odyssey. More recently, Moon and Inception have received both critical and public acclaim. Andrei Tarkovsky made the only film to seriously challenge 2001 for the mantle: Solaris.
With little progress and confusing messages coming from the scientists based on a space station orbiting a remote ocean planet called Solaris, Psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is despatched to sort out the mess. Of the three scientists based there, Kevlin learns that his friend committed suicide and the remaining couple (Dr Sartorius (Anatoliy Solonitsyn) and Dr Snaut (Jüri Järvet)) are evasive and uncooperative. He begins to see people, including his wife Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk).
Solaris, for me, is arguably a better film than 2001: A Space Odyssey. Whilst it may lack the hypnotic soundtrack and mesmerising iconic imagery of the Kubrick classic, it has a strong emotional plot centring around grief and loss. Visually arresting, as you’d expect, there’s something meditative and philosophical as the drama slowly plays out. Solaris is an intellectually taxing sci-fi epic which slowly ebbs into your psyche.
Solaris is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Curzon Artificial Eye on 8 August.