BP’s Top 100 Movie List Challenge #91: Solaris, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have tragically never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list has a good number of films I hadn’t seen before so it is a good source for my challenge.
One of my favorite genres of film is science fiction. I was raised on Star Trek and Star Wars. So Solaris was one of the films on the Battleship Pretension Top 100 list that I was the most excited to finally see. I wasn’t daunted by its nearly three hour run time until I started watching it. The first word that came to mind after finishing the film was: slog. It felt like a chore to get through and I had really force myself to finish it.
I do want to start with some positive things about the film. I like that it doesn’t expend much effort or time to spoon feed you the plot, it expects you to pay attention and catch up. The film also asks some really interesting questions about consciousness, humanity, and love. None of the questions are really answered and that is ok. The film forces you to think about what humanity means to you and what you would do for love, or even what consciousness truly means. If we imagine a red ball and we can touch it and bounce it and others can touch it, is it real or is it just your imagination. Those are all really interesting questions to ask and I like that the film raises them in different ways.
On to what I didn’t like about the film; the biggest problem that I had was that there was nothing in the film for me to latch on to. Dr. Kelvin is mopey and silent from the beginning so I was never able to care about him or what was happening to him. Unfortunately he is the only character we really get to know so it left me adrift for 165 minutes. The pacing is also a big problem for me. I know that long, meditative shots are a hallmark of Andrei Tartovsky films but it felt so dull and uninteresting to me. I appreciate a film that gives me time think or catch up but this was too much. Instead of contemplating the themes of the film I found myself bored and irritated.
This is a personal hang up, but one of the things that I could not get past was that they were clearly on a science station on a foreign planet but yet there appeared to be no science happening there. I kept asking myself why the government would keep paying to send scientists up there if they were producing no results. I know that is not the point of the film but I really couldn’t get past it and it added to my frustration with the film.
Ultimately I was really disappointed in Solaris but I am not sorry that I watched it. I see how this influenced many of the science fiction films that I love and I think it asks its audiences some interesting questions but I don’t ever want to sit through it again. It’s hard for me to judge if I believe it belong on the Battleship Pretension Top 100 list because I think it has significance as part of film history but I personally didn’t like it.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Solaris ranking: Destroyer