Solaris revolves around a scientist/psychologist, Kelvin, sent to a space station around a planet Solaris. Solaris was believed to be made of some conscious material and working like a giant brain. Many hypothesis had been earlier laid down but nothing substantial could be proved. And whether the mission was to be shelved or not was to be decide upon the report that Kelvin was going to submit. As Kelvin arrives at the space station he discovers that unusual things had been happening there as the scientists on board decide to bombard the planets surface with x-rays. To which the planet responded by reading chunks of their sub consciousness and creating human replicas based on that. And also one scientist had even committed suicide and had left a note for Kelvin.
Kelvin’s treated the same way by the planet as his wife’s replica appears. Its then the main theme that Takovsky is exploring comes forward: the relation ship between a man and his conscience in the wake of changing moral definitions brought up by technological advancements.The movie is an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s science fiction novel by the same name. Lam, however was unsatisfied by the adaptation as the movie probes more into moral dilemmas than the science fiction aspect of the book.
As Hari, physical manifestation Kelvin’s wife, appears on scene Kelvin gets scared and confused and in a desperate attempt of get rid of her he makes her board a rocket and launches her into the space, to which the planet produces another replica of her. Understanding that it would be difficult to get rid of her Kelvin tries to face the situation. The replica of Hari is actually Kelvin’s own conscience, a part of his subconsciousness which is made up of all the perceptions and desires of his towards Hari.
As the story moves the moral conflicts between Kelvin, Hari and other scientists on board become more intensified and elaborate, so much so that Hari is even drawn to commit suicide.
Dr Snaut, one of the scientist on the station: To science? It’s a fraud! No one will ever resolve this problem, neither genius, nor idiot! We have no ambition to conquer any cosmos. We just want to extend Earth up to the Cosmos’s borders. We don’t want any more worlds. Only a mirror to see our own in. We try so hard to make contact, but we’re doomed to failure. We look ridiculous pursuing a goal we fear and that we really don’t need. Man needs man!
Kelvin, blabbering in his Brain fever: Suffering makes life seem dismal and suspect. But I won’t accept that…Is that what is more indispensable to life also harmful to it? No its not harmful, its not harmful…. Remember Tolstoy? His suffering over impossibility of loving mankind as a whole… how much time has passed since then….But Love is a feeling we can experience buy can’t explain. One can explain the concept. You love that which you can loose: yourself, a woman, a homeland. Until today love was simply unattainable to mankind, to earth…. May be we are here to experience people as a reason for love…Glabreian died, not of fear but of shame. Shame-a feeling that will same mankind..
The first half of the movie is quite slow with long shots of Kelvin with nature. The main intent of Tarkovsky being to make the viewer feel the same nostalgia that Kelvin feels towards earth and people around in the second half of the story. As expected, few of the long shots are of exceptional beauty. The movie ends with the planet’s ocean making islands on its surface which reflect the subconsciousness, after fellow scientists bombarded the planet’s surface with Kelvin’s encephalogram. And in the last few scenes Tarkovsky shows one island forming the things that matter the most to Kelvin or, rather what Tarkovsky wanted to convey, are of most importance in the wake of such moral dilemmas.
When asked in an interview about the main theme of the movie Trkovsky replied:
….in the course of its development humanity is constantly struggling between spiritual, moral entropy, the dissipation of ethical principles, on the one hand, and on the other – the aspiration towards a moral ideal. The endless inner struggle of man, who wants to be freed from all moral restraint, but at the same time seeks a meaning for his own movement, in the form of an ideal – that is the dichotomy that constantly produces intense inner conflict in the life of the individual and of society..[..]..the story of Hari’s relationship with Kelvin is the story of the relationship between man and his own conscience. It’s about man’s concern with his own spirit, when he has no possibility of doing anything about it, when he is constantly drawn into the exploration and development of technology.