Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Solaris" by Andrei Tarkovsky

It’s not often that you see exquisite nature photography, a la National Geographic, in movies, but that’s not the case with Andrei Tarkovsky’s films, which often include images of raw landscapes so serene that you’re likely to stare at them with your mouth open.

“Solaris” was made in 1972 under the formidable Soviet Union’s moviemaking system, and putting aside the debate over whether there is any merit in a system that does not have to answer to the box-office reality, this science-fiction movie has quite a few fresh and mesmerizing scenes. Its story involves a futuristic astronaut sent to a faraway planet where other astronauts already stationed there have been acting weird. Upon his arrival at the planet, the protagonist is stunned to see his beautiful young wife showing up in the space station. He is shocked because she died ten years ago. Other astronauts explain to him that on this planet there is a mysterious ocean with inexplicable power which will create anything a human mind desires. Since the protagonist misses his wife, her human form solidifies into being. Alas, as his colleagues caution him that she is not a real human, more bizarre things happen.

Andrei Tarkovsky has a unique style of “color management” in the cinematography of his films, which is so utterly sublime that it’s hard to keep one’s eyes away from the screen even for a second. Thank goodness for DVD technology, the 33-year-old color photography in this movie is miraculously preserved and looks as if it were filmed last month.

Steven Soderbergh did a remake of “Solaris” in 2002, which I have not seen, but Tarkovsky’s is the original.

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