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Solaris (1972)

Calling Solaris "just a sci-fi movie" is like saying The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly is just a western, or that Pan's Labyrinth is just a fantasy film. This film is so much more than a sci-fi movie, incorporating drama, psychology, meditation, paranoia, and the questioning of the line between sanity and madness. I hadn't seen any of Andrei Tarkovsky's work before this, but Solaris has manged to make me incredibly interested in seeing more of his filmography.

In the film, we follow psychologist Kris Kelvin as he's assigned to observing the crew aboard the space station that's placed above the surface of alien planet Solaris. The beginning of the film focuses on Kelvin's last day on Earth before leaving. Here, Kelvin contemplates his life, ponders about his dead wife, spends time with his dying father, and does some last-minute research about the mysterious circumstances of those that interact with Solaris. Once onboard, Kelvin finds that the two members of the crew - the third one having killed himself long ago - are having hallucinations of their greatest desires. Kelvin at first chalks this up to "space madness", thinking that the long duration of the scientists' stay has affected their minds. However, Kelvin's diagnosis begins to change as he himself begins to see his dead wife aboard the space station...

The first thing you'll probably notice about Solaris is its pacing. It's very slow-moving and meditative, and the film's more focused with lingering on the small details instead of rushing from event to event. It's peaceful and tranquil, allowing the viewer to simply enjoy the beautiful visuals before them and contemplate the events of the film. Although this slow pacing makes for some great cinema, there are moments that did seem to drag on - particularly during the midway point of the film. When this film does drag, though, it *certainly* does drag. Still, if you can sit through these overly long moments, the rest of the film should be very pleasing and thought-provoking.

The characterization in this film is also, interestingly enough, very life-like. Focused on realism, the characters in this film certainly feel like real people. They talk, think, behave, and feel like real people, and this reality behind the characters make it easy for us to connect with and like these people. It's a very intellectual element of the film, and the theme of human personality blends in with this element incredibly well.

Visually, this movie is absolutely beautiful. From the film's start - which begins with a few minutes lingering on nature's beauty - I knew this to be true, and this visual beauty is present even in the cold confines of space. The camerawork is simply astonishing, and the way the lighting is used is really interesting as it sort of creates a certain lighting for people, a certain lighting for backgrounds, and etc. and so forth.

Overall, this film is absolutely beautiful and incredibly well-made. If you can overlook some of the pacing issues, you'll find Solaris to be an intellectual and contemplative experience.





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