Friday, June 30, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #17: "Solaris" (1972)

Movie Stats:
Released 1972 (France)
Soviet, in Russian (some non-translated German; I watched with English subtitles)
Director - Andrei Tarkovsky
Stars - Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuk, Juri Jarvet

Plot Summary:
When the crew of a space station orbiting the planet Solaris begin to experience strange phenomena, psychologist Kris Kelvin (Banionis) is sent there to determine if the project should continue. Bondarchuk co-stars as Kris’s wife, Hari (it was spelled this way in the subtitles; IMDB posts her name as Khari), and Jarvet as Dr. Snaut, a space station crew member.

Minor gore; implied sexy times; female semi-nudity (breasts seen through a see-through shirt that might as well have not been there at all).

Bad Stuff:
It’s very long and very slow. At one point, I said to my husband, “I feel like I’ve been watching this film for 30 years.”

There are a lot of scenes and shots that feel like they’re in there because the director was desperate to show how artistic he was. For example, the five-minute-long, silent, car ride of a secondary character with no apparent destination. We never see that character again. Or, the extreme close-up of Banionis’s ear hair while he monologued.

I don’t find characters’ reactions particularly believable. [SPOILER] If a loved one of mine came back from the dead, my reaction would include a great deal more freaking out. [SPOILER]

Good Stuff:
I enjoyed its more science-y aspects and liked that they attempted an actual explanation for the phenomena. While some characters’ reactions weren’t relatable, I appreciated that there was one person (Dr. Sartorius, played by Anatoliy Solonitsyn) who approached it as a scientist.

Quite a bit of the cinematography is really beautiful.

I appreciate the exploration of humanity, reality, and morality.

The Verdict:
To give you an idea of how long this film is, I completed 3 loads of laundry while watching it. I see that it’s received a lot of accolades over on IMDB. I confess I don’t get it. When I was younger, I loved a good art house film. Now I find even the shorter ones tedious and labored. One that’s nearly 3 hours long? Practically torture. There were so many scenes where I found myself thinking, “What is even the point of this?” It feels both self-indulgent & self-important, like if I were able to say any of this to the director, he would respond snootily, “Well, obviously you just don’t get it.” The longer I watched, the more I began to appreciate the more recent version. The original may be deeper and more philosophical, but at least it didn’t have this much filler.

I give it 2.5 stars.

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