Solyaris (Solaris), Andréi Tarkovski, USSR, 1972, 165'
Tarkovski's third full-length feature, and the first inroads of a Russian director into the universe of science fiction. The story goes that, following problems debuting his previous film, which was completely brushed aside and mistreated by the Government, Tarkovski needed a more popular film that would work at the box office and allow him to continue with his career as a filmmaker. This is when the possibility arose to create a film adaptation of a successful novel by a highly popular Polish science fiction writer, Stanislav Lem. Although they both started working together on the script and conception of the film, Tarkovski soon moved away from the main storyline developed in the novel, the possibility of communicating between an expedition of humans and an alien being in the form of an ocean, to focus on the psychology, doubts, and fears of the expedition's members: psychologist Kris Kelvin is sent on an interstellar mission to a space station that orbits around a water-covered planet, Solaris, to investigate the mysterious death of a doctor.
This film is often presented in the context of the Cold War, and as the Soviet response to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick). However, both Kubrick and Tarkovski moved away from Manichean and simplistic interpretations in their space-themed versions and, in turn, propose entirely philosophical visions of the relationship between human beings and the cosmos. In the case of Solaris, the result is a master lesson in pure cinema, which ennobles that which is represented through the visual and audible experience in order to attempt to go beyond the landscapes, leading characters, camera movements, mysteries, and storylines presented. There is no use trying to understand one of these films "with logic".
The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972 and received the Grand Jury Prize and the FIPRESCI Critic's Award.