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Solaris [1972] (DVD)

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Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Science Fiction / Theatrical Release: 1972 / Director: Andrei Tarkovsky / Actors: Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis ... / DVD released 21 January, 2002 at Artificial Eye / Features of the DVD: Black & White, Colour, Dubbed, PAL, Widescreen

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      06.03.2011 14:59
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      Very slow but riveting exploration of the human psyche with the backdrop of a strange new planet

      One of the most interesting things I have found out since working my way through Empire's Top 500 films is that there is such a wide range of styles and personal opinion included in there. What defines a classic? Is it something that receives huge public status, or something that is included in professional critics' top lists. Andrey Tarkovskiy's 1972 film, Solaris, takes a lot of patience to watch. The director no doubt had hoops beyond hoops to jump through in order to get this made and released without huge censorship, and each second is painstakingly given.

      Quite a long film, it asks you to think, and to guess, about the human psyche, whilst presenting some evidence in the form of a sort of love story. It features a bit of a space race theme, as we see a Russian cosmonaut and psychologist, Dr Kris Kelvin, preparing to be sent into space to investigate strange reports coming from a space station hovering near a new planet named Solaris. After a few thought provoking but slow and rather depressing scenes at Kelvin's house, he's off into space, where things start to turn a little strange.

      Initially vexed by the lack of a welcome, when he finally meets the 2 remaining scientists on board and learns about the demise of the other scientist, he starts to hear and see things, and the appearance of the last person he expected to see really makes him think something unprecedented is going on with his mind as well as those of his colleagues. Tarkovskiy presents this slowly but deliberately, making sure that every moment is dwelled upon, giving us time to think at the same time as slowly progressing the plot.

      When the characters start to see things they shouldn't, and hear and believe things they're unsure about, I found it hard to maintain focus, and ended up watching this in more than one sitting. I suppose starting it quite late at night wasn't the best way to start, as you really need to concentrate to have any hope of seeing this through and understanding it. many have described it as overly boring, but it certainly has an interesting concept as long as you're in the right frame of mind to watch it. Events are slow, for sure, but the exploration of the human psyche that it contains means it's also one of the most thought provoking films I've ever seen. Had the pace been that much quicker, I don't believe that it would have had the same powerful elements, so I have to back the director's control and slow pace.

      Another thing to consider is when the film came out, right in the heart of the Cold War. Sensitive Soviet material, if you look at it as a statement about the space race, and there must have been a lot of opposition to the film's release. Now, we can watch it without thinking there's anything overly political included, but at the time, you'd almost swear that there was a deliberate dig at society for being controlling and preventing public opinion as much as happened. Curious events on board the space station result in questioning the genre of film that we're seeing, as although it's very much in a sci-fi setting, it's more a mix of psychological thriller and romance film than anything else.

      The acting is very good - the cast must have been extremely patient, just like its viewers would have needed to be. Donatas Banionis is excellent as Kelvin, while Natalya Bondarchuk's deadpan delivery of Kelvin's 'wife', Hari, is equal to the task, and quite scary in places. They certainly give a bit more presence than George Clooney and Natasha McElhone did in the more recent remake, which hurries things along a bit too quickly for my liking. Other film comparisons could be Event Horizon, a bit of a horror style remake, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, which also focuses on the human psyche, albeit not quite so exclusively.

      I found this a very good film, although it's vital to approach it in the right way. You'll have to take your time, and really think about what you're watching. If you're looking for something you don't really have to concentrate on, then look somewhere else. If you have a lapse with this, you'll get completely lost and have to keep going back. It can be rewarding if you give it a chance and take your time - the special effects do exactly what is needed and Tarkovskiy's camera angles and timing make it riveting if you're in the right mood, while the well timed used of classical music helps with the mood. Recommended, but only at the right time.

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        18.06.2009 12:18
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        An absolute masterpiece.

        When Andrei Tarkovsky initiated the necessary processes to begin the making of Solaris, he held the intention to create a film which could not be placed in any of the genres. However, as Tarkovsky himself admitted, Solaris is very much a science fiction film. Starring Donatas Banionis (the DVD has a featurette of his career), the film chronicles a cosmonaut who arrives at a space station over the ocean filled planet Solaris to attend to the mysteries which the crew have witnessed, namely hallucinations. Dr. Kelvin (Banionis) then becomes a victim of these odd occurences himself when he sees his dead wife several times on the station.

        Famed for Tarkovsky's long takes, Solaris is much more than simply a science fiction film. It shows that *spoiler* human beings are willing to lie to themselves in order to maintain happiness, rather than facing up the truths which persist our lives. *spoiler* The film is spread over two discs with rather disappointing special features - interviews and the aforementioned Banionis featurette. Be sure to access the audio part from the menu and choose Russian as the film is set to an English dubbing before playing the film.

        An easy 5 star film.

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          05.01.2009 20:17
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          A great DVD investment: many viewings required

          Let's be very clear before starting - pending some cleaning up by DooYoo there are some reviews for this product that are mis-placed. As you'll see from the product description, this product is the excellent two disc DVD release of Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 film 'Solaris'. A handful of the product reviews here are for the much later re-make by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney. Don't buy the wrong DVD, because they're very different films!

          It's a real pleasure to find almost all of Tarkovsky's films on DVD now. Artificial Eye have done a good job of transferring the film to the digital format, and the extras include some startling behind the scenes images and a short documentary with actress Natalya Bondarchuk, and an awesome little contemporary USSR featurette on the actor Donatas Banionis.

          'Solaris' is a mesmerising but difficult film. Mesmerising because of Tarkovsky's superb cinematography and direction; difficult because it is hugely indulgent and to modern standards extremely slow moving. That, however, is a deeply satisfying hallmark of Tarkovsky's films that creates a contemplative mood in which the interested viewer can explore both the presentation of the story and enjoy every detail.

          It is perhaps most enthralling because it is one of very few examples of a Soviet science fiction film, and without doubt the most successful. In later interviews and in his diary, Tarkovsky makes no real emphasis about it being a science fiction film. It is a film about the human condition that happens to be set in space, made at a time when people on both sides of the Iron Curtain were pre-occupied with the idea of astronauts spending long periods in deep space.

          I shan't attempt to summarise the film, but recommend interested viewers to also consider the original book by Stanisław Lem, and the wider works of Tarkovsky, notably 'Stalker' which has a similarly introspective character and open ended narrative.

          Details

          * Actors: Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Jüri Järvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky, Nikolai Grinko
          * Directors: Andrei Tarkovsky
          * Writers: Andrei Tarkovsky, Fridrikh Gorenshtein, Stanislaw Lem
          * Producers: Viacheslav Tarasov
          * Format: Black & White, Colour, Dubbed, PAL, Widescreen
          * Language German, Russian
          * Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Hebrew, Japanese, Russian
          * Region: Region 2 ( DVD formats.)
          * Aspect Ratio: Wide Screen:1
          * Number of discs: 2
          * Classification: PG
          * Studio: Artificial Eye
          * DVD Release Date: 21 Jan 2002
          * Run Time: 159 minutes

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            13.11.2007 13:35
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            A Russian Sci-fi film about space travel and the human condition.

            This is not the recent remake directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney and Natasha McElhone. This is the original Russian version of Solaris (1972 ) which presents a provocative interpretation of the side effects from long term space exploration. The film is set aboard a Russian space station that is orbiting the liquid covered planet named Solaris. Strange happenings have taken place and contact with the crew has been lost. Cosmonaut and psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) departs for the station in order to investigate the reports of strange phenomena sent back by the crew. The minute he boards the desolate space station strange events, both physical and mental, start to occur. The phenomena he experiences seem to be related to the interaction between the human subconsciousness of those on board and the Solaris ocean that covers the planet.

            There is a wonderfully haunting sound track that accompanies the film: Bach's "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" and the film possesses numerous moments of captivating beauty. The acting by all the cast is superb throughout. Some would say that Solaris is in essence a love story - this is certainly a more central theme in Soderbergh's remake. For Tarkovsky, surprisingly this is his only film to incorporate a love story - between Kelvin and his wife - albeit one that is based around lost love. But in this film it is once again Tarkovsky's metaphysical preoccupations that are the overriding themes in this film. Also evident is his obsession with the four base elements - the basic units: earth, wind, fire and water from which the mythological world was formed.

            Solaris might appear slow and tedious to today's cinema audience but one has to watch it with appreciation of the social context in which it was made. Like many creative artists in the former Soviet Union, Tarkovsky had to really struggle against the authorities in order to get his vision across. Amongst the existential themes of loss and isolation is the individual struggle to remain sane when your mind as well as your body is being controlled and manipulated by more powerful outside forces - perhaps this was a partial metaphor for the Soviet society in which Tarkovsky grew up. Solaris is also a good example of how a film full of powerful and memorable imagery does not have to rely high tech special effects.

            Extras on the DVD include an interview with Andrei Tarkovsky's sister and a short film about Donatus Banionis. There are also two photo galleries featuring film stills and behind the scenes shots. There is a good interview with Natalya Bondarchuk about Tarkovsky and the filming. There is a wide variety of dub and subtitle options. The Soundtrack is available in Russian, French and English all in 5.1 Dolby stereo.

            Cast : Natalya Bondarchuk (Hari), Donatas Banionis (Kris Kelvin), Yuri Jarvet (Dr. Snout), Anatoli Solonitsyn (Dr. Sartorius), Vladislav Dvorzhetsky (Burton), Sos Sarkissian (Dr. Guibariane), Nikolai Grinko (Kelvin's father),

            Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
            Run time: 159 mins
            Genres: Foreign/Arthouse - Sci-Fi/Fantasy
            Released: January 21, 2002

            Price: £11 from Amazon

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              02.07.2002 14:21
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              Solaris 1972 Natalya Bondarchuk .... Hari Donatas Banionis .... Kris Kelvin Jüri Järvet .... Dr. Snout Vladislav Dvorzhetsky .... Burton Nikolai Grinko .... Kelvin's father Anatoli Solonitsyn .... Dr. Sartorius Sos Sarkisyan .... Dr. Guibariane Russian language credits start rolling over the screen accompanied by haunting organ music, Bach's "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ", setting a strangely lethargic and alien tone for the rest of the movie. First scene: pond weeds billow in flowing water, eventually the camera picks out a slightly dishevelled looking human looking sadly into camera, his face registering a million heartaches. This is our hero Kris Kelvin. Solaris instantly attains a massive dignity which it retains thoughout. A group has gathered at Kris' father's idyllic country house to watch old movies. The movies are space agency documentary footage of the testimony of a pilot named Burton. He tells of flying over the liquid surface of the planet named Solaris. He tells of strange visions of strangely familiar formations that appeared before his eyes on the planet's surface, film footage taken from his aircraft is shown that backs up his story 0%. The assembled scientists offer hypothesis that Solaris' sentient ocean somehow influenced Burton's mind, others begin to question Burton's mental state. A considerably aged Burton is watching the film amongst the guests. It soon becomes apparent that the scientific community has tired of Solaris failing to yield its secrets. Gradually staff and resources are pulled away from the research leaving a space station in orbit with three occupants, astrobiologist Sartorius, cyberneticist Snout and physiologist Guibariane. Over time, contact has been lost with these men. Kris is a psychologist and is being sent to the Solaris space station to determine what has become of
              these men. Upon arrival at the station, to no welcome at all, Kris discovers Guibariane is dead and the remaining two are men behaving strangely. It soon becomes apparent to Kris that the three are not alone on the space station after all. Each crewmember has a visitor. Kris wakes the next morning to find a visitor of his own and he is initially pleased to find it is his wife, Hari. However, there are two problems with this, she never accompanied him on the the flight and more importantly she committed suicide 10 years earlier. The second reaction Kris has is to blast the creature into space. Alas, the divorce is only temporary and a brand new Hari appears the next day. To further complicate matters terrible things happen to the visitors if they are separated from their host. In Hari's case she also becomes aware that she is not the original... The Solaris ocean in an effort to understand or communicate is making flesh images from the human subconscious. As Kris struggles to come to terms with this turn of events, Snout and Sartorius have other plans. -------------------------------------------------------------------- Science Fiction in the movies can take several forms, there are updates to traditional genres, the western becomes "Outland", the murder mystery becomes "Minority Report", the creature in the woods becomes "Alien". There are some which tackle mans inhumanity to man, "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Social comment begets "Planet of the Apes" and "Logan's Run". A handful analyse the mind, "Forbidden Planet" for example. Solaris belongs to this latter category and to one more that I shall mention later, a treatise on how to keep your sanity, your humanity when you find you are in fact the laboratory rat when you thought you were the scientist. Solaris' power has been diluted over the years, its (m
              inimal) effects have been rendered obsolete, several other shows have borrowed the theme, "Event Horizon" is a horror film revision of Solaris. A remake is in production with George Clooney and Natascha McElhone in the leads and Steven Soderbergh directing. Blasphemy cry the purists, I'm actually looking forward to it and can't wait to see Burton's visions made whole. Can Soderbergh recapture Tarkovsky's visual poetry though? Tarkovsky has set a lofty target, the magnificent dignity of this film, its moments of eerie beauty, a Breughel painting almost coming to life, a brief ballet of weightlessness, the little mistakes that Solaris makes in its recreations. Hari's immaculate frozen corpse regaining life... The source novel by Stanislaw Lem ends with Kris musing his lot in life and "cruel miracles" on the planet surface at the conclusion of the mission. Tarkovsky goes way beyond this reaching a conclusion only hinted at in the book. I can't give it away, stinker that I am. I will say that whereas the not dissimilar "2001: A Space Odyssey" ends with an enigma, the ending to Solaris is a perfect and necessary solution of absolute clarity and truth to the characters. It's an ending that has haunted me for the better part of thirty years and I still get goosebumps seeing it today. Solaris is a love story. This film is a chore to sit through. It requires careful attention. If you are attuned to it it is rewarding beyond almost any other film I can think of. --------------------------------------------- The DVD release by the Russian Cinema Council is a beautiful rendering of the movie as you could want, picture and sound seem both freshly minted and not of 30 years vintage. Extras include an interview with Andrei Tarkovsky's sister. A featurette on Donatus Banionis which includes some bull fighting footage (you have been warned). Two photo galleri
              es one of production stills the other behind the scenes shots. Best of all an interview with Natalya Bondarchuk about Tarkovsky and the filming with appropriate excerpts. An astonishing array of dubbing and subtitling options are present, starting with the choice of language for the menus themselves! The Soundtrack is available in Russian, French and English (Hari becomes Carrie), all 5.1 Dolby stereo. Subtitles are available in, get this, Russian, French, Spanish, Portugese, Swedish, English, Japanese, German, Dutch, Italian, Hebrew, Arabic and Chinese! The film is spread out across two disks. But you can't have everything can you?

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              Released in 1972, Solaris is Andrei Tarkovsky's third feature and his most far-reaching examination of human perceptions and failings. It's often compared to Kubrick's 2001, but although both bring a metaphysical dimension to bear on space exploration, Solaris has a claustrophobic intensity which grips the attention over spans of typically Tarkovskian stasis. Donatas Banionis is sympathetic as the cosmonaut sent to investigate disappearances on the space station orbiting the planet Solaris, only to be confronted by his past in the guise of his dead wife, magnetically portrayed by Natalya Bondarchuk. The ending is either a revelation or a conceit, depending on your viewpoint. On the DVD: Solaris reproduces impressively on DVD in widescreen--which is really essential here--and Eduard Artemiev's ambient score comes over with pristine clarity. There are over-dubs in English and French, plus subtitles in 12 languages. An extensive stills gallery, detailed filmographies for cast and crew, and comprehensive biographies of Tarkovsky and author Stanislaw Lem are valuable extras, as are the interviews with Bondarchuk and Tarkovsky's sister and an amusing 1970s promo-film for Banionis. It would have been better had the film been presented complete on one disc, instead of stretched over two. Even so, the overall package does justice to a powerful and disturbing masterpiece. --Richard Whitehouse