Saturday, August 6, 2011

Criterion Critiques w/ Alex DeLarge

What follows is part of a regular series of reviews on the always wonderful, and quite indispensable Criterion Collection, written by our special guest reviewer Alex DeLarge of the Korova Theatre.

SOLARIS (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)
Released on Criterion Blu-ray 5/24/2011, spine #164

Kris Kelvin travels millions of miles to combat an alien consciousness…his own. Andrei Tarkovsky’s existential masterpiece is an introspective journey into a foreign world, where the cold sea can wash away sin or drown the victim in its sentient embrace.

Tarkovsky begins the story as Kris Kelvin wanders contemplatively around his father’s farmhouse, focusing upon the rippling waters and green spindly tendrils, the rich abundance of life and energy on Earth. He argues with his father and burns his past, its ashes drifting away into the ether…but regrets always write their indelible text upon our psyches. Tarkovsky’s narrative dichotomy to Earth imparts a sense of longing and loneliness for Kelvin: he is isolated and disheveled upon arriving at the neglected space station, its gray and foreboding interior a reflection of Kelvin’s dejection. The surviving scientists are caught in their own traps, their dire warnings too vague and obtuse for understanding. Sleep soon brings the deep-rooted fears and bitter anxieties to flesh, to once again be opposed, a divine torture gifted from the tumultuous seas below, a watery intelligence who grasps at their minds attempting to communicate. But the scientists want to destroy what they fail to understand.

Kris must confront a simulacrum of his ex-wife Hari, who killed herself because she could not live without him. This fa├žade is plucked from his mind and she is created in his mental image, with all of her flaws and weaknesses…as remembered and imagined by Kris. I think this is an important distinction and why Kris ultimately fails: Hari is form to his own biased and anxious emotions, so when she committed suicide Kris believed it to be his fault. He spirals deeper and deeper into depression and remorse unable to reciprocate her unconditional love; time after time redemption trickles through his fingers like water. But this automaton is becoming human in its own way, and makes the one final selfless decision for love, revealing Kris’s egocentrism because he can’t believe she would make that sacrifice for him, proving that Kris didn’t understand the “real” Hari at all.

Tarkovsky’s beautiful cinematography varies between color and black and white to show Kris’s mental state, his gradual loss of sanity: the past, present, and delusion becoming one continuum. The detail to the set design is magnificent and adds an unused and hebephrenic disorder to the visuals and subtext that creates an absolutely realistic environment. Ironically, Kris willingly becomes a prisoner to the garden of Earthly delights, a Boschian purgatory given substance on Solaris. 

Final Grade: (A+)

About Alex: "To state things plainly is the function of journalism; Alex writes fugitive reviews, allusive, symbolic, full of imagery and allegory, and by leaving things out, he allows the reader the privilege of creating along with him." Alex can be found hidden deep within the dark confines of his home theatre watching films, organizing his blu-ray and dvd collection and updating his blogs. Please visit the Korova Theatre and Hammer & Thongs to see what’s on his mind.

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