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The cosmonauts on a space station have strange hallucinations which seem to originate from the planet they are orbiting.
For more about Solaris and the Solaris Blu-ray release, see Solaris Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Andrey Tarkovsky
Writers: Andrey Tarkovsky, Fridrikh Gorenshtein
Starring: Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuk, Jüri Järvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetskiy, Nikolay Grinko, Anatoliy Solonitsyn
» See full cast & crew
Solaris Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 18, 2011
Winner of the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival, Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris" (1972) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with film scholars Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie; interviews with actress Natalya Bondarchuk, cinematographer Vadim Yusov, production designer Mikhail Romadin, and composer Eduard Artemyev; deleted and Alternate scenes; and more. The disc also arrives with a 20-page illustrated booklet containing Phillip Lopate's essay "Inner Space" and Akira Kurosawa's "Tarkovsky and Solaris". In Russian, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Andrei Tarkovsky's legendary Solaris is a product of its time. It is a long and slow film that demands patience, a virtue modern audiences seem to lack. It is a film in which the atmosphere is a lot more important than the narrative and its characters. It is also a Soviet film that was carefully scrutinized by the Soviet censors before it was approved for release.
Kris (Donatas Banionis, Depressiya) is a space psychologist who has been asked to assist with a puzzling case involving the Soviet space station Solaris, which the government is considering closing down. Before he leaves Earth, he is shown various clips from a scientific conference where it is revealed that the station's crew members have began suffering intense hallucinations.
At Solaris, Kris is shocked to discover that one of the crew members has already committed suicide. The scientist's final video message warns Kris about various anomalies, affecting the way people on board of the station think and react, whose origin is unclear. Unsure what to make of the message, Kris questions the remaining two scientists on Solaris, who explain to him that some sort of an intelligent force was unleashed after they sent powerful probes to a nearby planet which disrupted the radiation balance in its atmosphere.
On the following day, Kris comes in contact with the force - by meeting his deceased wife Hari, who offers him the type of love and affection his heart has been longing for. At first, Kris succumbs to the force, and his memories, but then lures Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk, Prishyol soldat s fronta) into a capsule and launches it into space. Much to his surprise, however, Hari reappears.
After the two spend some time together, Hari begins to realize that Kris and his feelings for her have changed. Enormously hurt and disillusioned, she commits suicide - like the real Hari apparently did many years ago. Filled with sadness and guilt, Kris begins to reevaluate his entire life.
Based on the famous novel by Stanislaw Lem, Solaris is an intoxicatingly beautiful and thought-provoking reflection of a country that no longer exists. In it Tarkovsky questions various perceptions about the meaning of life, reality and identity, which were once carefully shaped for the Soviets by Marxist ideology and propaganda.
The film is slow and moody, overflowing with nostalgia for a world that seems to have been forgotten by those who built Solaris. Aside from Kris, who is fascinated by life and nature's beauty, everyone else is obsessed with various abstract theories and experimental approaches. There is a sense that a massive isolation has occurred - perhaps a distant reference to the Cold War division - which has dramatically affected the way people perceive reality.
The film's greatest strength is its ability to force one to ponder and reassess what matters in life, as well as one's entire belief system. Indeed, Solaris is a science fiction film, but not one that is concerned with outer space and the mysteries of the universe; rather, it is an unusual reevaluation of Earth and nature's timeless beauty, as well as man's inexorable desire to explore, learn and believe.
Lensed by legendary cinematographer Vadim Yusov, who also collaborated with Tarkovsky on the unforgettable Ivan's Childhood and Andrei Rublev, Solaris is an astonishingly beautiful film. Even today, the lovely scenes from the Russian countryside, as well as the futuristic footage from Japan, look enormously impressive. The film also boasts a terrific electronic soundtrack courtesy of Eduard Artemiev (Stalker, Burnt by the Sun).
Note: In 1972, Solaris won the Grand Prize of the Jury and FIPRESCI Prize (Andrei Tarkovsky) at the Cannes Film Festival.
Solaris Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm low-contrast print made from the original negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Joe Gawler/The Tape House, New York."
There are various inherited limitations with the high-definition transfer Criterion have struck for their Blu-ray release of Solaris. First, there are numerous extremely light color pulsations that are present throughout the entire film - the variety of reds, greens, yellows, and blacks appear to be the most sensitive colors. Naturally, this instability at times affects clarity levels. Second, contrast also has a tendency to fluctuate. As a result, certain scenes look softer than others. During some of the darker footage, light noise is also easy to spot. Despite these limitations, however, detail is mostly good, and certainly substantially improved when one compares this Blu-ray release of Solaris to Criterion's SDVD release of the film. The footage from the station, in particular, looks surprisingly good, boasting improved clarity and a stronger, more convincing color-scheme. Furthermore, mild edge-enhancement is present, but it is never a serious issue of concern. Various noise corrections have been performed as well, though light grain is visible throughout the entire film. Finally, even though Criterion have performed a thorough cleanup, small flecks, dirt, and scratches are occasionally easy to spot. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" BLu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Solaris Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Russian LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack positive. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Audio Cube's integrated workstation."
Generally speaking, the Russian LPCM 1.0 track gives the audio a much needed depth, which has clearly been missing on previous releases of the film. However, there are various - again, obviously inherited - small balance issues. For example, portions of the dialog would occasionally stick out, while some of the background effects from time to time are somewhat subdued. Still, the dialog is relatively crisp and certainly very easy to follow.
Solaris Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Solaris Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Arguably one of the greatest and most influential science fiction films ever made, Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris does not need to be promoted or recommended; it simply belongs in any serious film library. Now, I only hope that Criterion will also manage to produce Blu-ray releases of the Russian director's Ivan's Childhood and Andrei Rublev. (Don't forget that in June Kino Video will release on Blu-ray The Sacrifice).
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