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Solaris (free)

  • Vilas Hall 821 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

This meditative, haunting sci-fi film is one of Andrei Tarkovsky's most well-known and rewarding visions. Info/tix


If you're still keen on meditative slow cinema immediately after the eight-day marathon of the Wisconsin Film Festival, UW Cinematheque programming has things covered with the first of three new 4K DCP restorations of Andrei Tarkovsky's masterworks. Even in its two-part, near-three-hour runtime, Solaris (1972) remains one of Tarkovsky's most well-known and rewarding visions. While the film based on Stanisław Lem's 1961 existentially philosophical, cosmic, and thematically revealing novel, Tarkovsky demonstrates a progressive adherence to near-silent poetic suggestion in the psychological introspection of Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) aboard a space station that orbits the titular sea-covered planet. Kelvin is initially summoned there by cosmonaut Burton (Vladislav Dvorzhetsky) to investigate mysterious sightings and behaviors of the remaining crew. However, once he arrives, the film obfuscates plot and chronology with a surreal character study of a man haunted by his past, particularly the idealized, incomplete memories of his deceased wife Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk).

Cinematographer Vadim Yusov augments the subjectivity of Kelvin's experiences through a intermittent blue-tinted monochrome filter that indicates a melancholic nostalgia. And that's to say nothing of the all-embracing visual ingenuity in its seamless and elegant dissolves of life into art and back. Champions of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (which just marked its 50th anniversary this month) will find Tarkovsky's spiritual sci-fi to be the perfect companion. Solaris' overarching, international success and influence spawned a 2002 remake by Steven Soderbergh and even a space-rock song by Failure in 1996, which strongly characterizes the film's dreamy imagery. —Grant Phipps