Quick recap: A psychologist is sent into space to check on a few astronauts who have basically lost their minds.
Fun (?) fact: Two notable people who disliked this film: the director himself, Andrei Tarkovsky and the author of the book ‘Solaris’, Stanislaw Lem. Lem is known for using humor and satire in his novels and said he did not write the story about ‘erotic problems in space’.
Thoughts and observations:
Mixing Sci-Fi and Horror is a sure way to get me pumped about any movie. Since I don’t do any research prior to viewing, all I knew was the title was Solaris, which sounds menacing enough. I watched the first half hour glued to the screen, seeing everything as a clue for whatever lurks on the space station. I filed away every tiny detail, from the boy being scared of a horse to the 10 MINUTE driving scene, expecting a fully satisfying reveal. I think the scene where Kris Kelvin asks when liftoff would happen as the camera pans to a dark sky and the scientist replies that he’s already in space was the exact point I decided to lower my expectations.
As is explained in the beginning of the film (I think), Solaris is a planet that is also an ocean and the ocean is actually a brain. And everyone has just decided that this is a thing and it’s a little weird but fine. Meanwhile, astronauts keep getting sent up there only to report about crazy hallucinations they are having, instead of the Brain Ocean they are supposed to be studying. Kris Kelvin has been tasked to go into space and figure out why everyone keeps dying or going insane. Almost immediately after landing and walking around, he starts seeing ‘guests’, which are basically the Brain Ocean’s way of communicating? They look like real people but they aren’t. Instead, the Ocean invades people’s thoughts and dreams and creates a physical manifestation. One scientist I think had children, and the other was some Little Person. Kelvin, on the other hand, wins the jackpot and gets a manifestation of his wife, who died by suicide 10 years prior.
If you are still thinking that all of these elements surely lead into some kind of horror trope like I was, go ahead and be disappointed. Solaris is more philosophical than anything else. It explores what being a person is and how our minds store memories. For example, Kelvin says he loves his wife, Hari, but admits that he didn’t really love her when they were together. Does this manifestation bring about his true thoughts or is the manifestation only what he wanted his actual wife to be? Space is just about the only setting for this setup, yet there are many times I forgot that they were even on another planet. Most of the time it just felt like a typical haunted house, except the ghosts were mildly annoying people. Hari’s character was the most interesting to me, as she started out glued to Kelvin (because it was basically his thought after all) and eventually learned to be separate, although never an actual real person.
There is a ‘twist’ at the end that I liked and for once I won’t spoil it here. It wasn’t scary, but eerie instead and about as close to a payoff to all that ‘suspense’ I kept thinking I noticed.
Watchability score: 3/5. I’m wavering at a 4 because this movie has been on my mind a lot after watching it, but I don’t want to rewatch any time soon.
Up next: Cyclo