Adapted from Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 science fiction novel, Andrei Tarkovsky’s poetic and mesmerizing film focuses on a psychologist named Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) sent to investigate the emotional condition of three scientists living on a space station orbiting a mysterious and possibly sentient planet. Once there, however, Kelvin encounters a physical incarnation of his ex-wife (Natalya Bondarchuk), forcing him to confront his own repressed memories and unresolved drama. Though the detailed sets and props in Solaris are convincing, Tarkovsky had little interest in exotic technology. Actively resisting the “prophetic” impulses of 2001: A Space Odyssey (“Kubrick is intoxicated with all this and he forgets about man, about his moral problems,” he said), Tarkovsky emphasizes Kelvin’s voyage of self-discovery. The story's simultaneous drift outward and inward prompts some of the film’s most entrancing images: floating leaves and undulating grass in a quietly flowing stream; an extended driving sequence on a modern highway. Cinematically immersive, both are contemplative metaphors for Kelvin’s physical and emotional journeys. Tarkovsky’s profound love of nature—glimpsed in the serene country home of Kelvin’s father (Nikolay Grinko), in flashbacks, even in the paintings of Bruegel—contrasts with the space station’s artificial environment and helps articulate Kelvin’s suppressed yearnings for warmth and home. The resulting tension is only one of the ways in which Tarkovsky crafts his film into an indelible meditation on vulnerability, forgiveness, and spiritual belonging.
Bing Theater | $10 general admission; $7 LACMA members, seniors (62+), and students with valid ID; $5 LACMA Film Club members and Academy members | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online.