Focus Up #1 - Diving into Solaris

That Hulu subscription that was getting a workout when Fall and Spring rolled around is probably going to waste right about now, with most shows on summer break. I know I’ve been rewatching Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but levitating French fries and over-confident milkshakes don’t exactly challenge the mind as much as I’d like.

Enter Hulu’s surprisingly awesome movie collection, which boasts over 900 Criterion Collection films. This summer, let’s not suffer through season 80 of America’s Got Talent or Battlebots, let’s watch some good shit. Time to dig deep people, and make this a summer of enlightenment. So, let’s ease into this and start with a three-hour movie that’s entirely in Russian. Enter Solaris.

Solaris starts with an interesting enough premise. In the not-so-distant future, humanity (the Russians) has set up a station over the ocean of the distant planet of Solaris and its’ ocean. The Ocean is alive, in a way; it has a conscious. It is aware. Our protagonist, Kris Kelvin, is recruited to go to Solaris to determine the station’s next course of action.

Solaris boasts a history of strange occurrences and sightings, and the once populated station now is only home to only three scientists: Snaut, Sartorius, and Gribaryan. Kris is sent to determine whether these men are fit for duty and whether Solaris should be shut down. However, upon arriving on the station, Kris learns that its inhabitants are not alone, and shortly after, the station receives another guest: Hari. Her past and her arrival is part ofSolaris’ mystery, which is explored in Part One.

Solaris is split into two halves, Part One challenging the viewer to believe the truth in what they are seeing (reality) versus what they know to be true (logic). The film does an excellent job of putting the viewer into the same perspective as Kris; his confusion is ours, as he explores and discovers the mysteries of Solaris. It’s important to remember Snaut’s words: “If you see something out of the ordinary… …try not to lose your head.”

Part Two of the film (it actually has a title card, “Part Two”) explains the mysteries of part one early on. The solution Kris presents in the beginning of the second half is downright hilarious, if technically a failure. But this is where Solaris starts to deviate from a mystery of how these things are happening to a question of if they should stop them. Kris is very content to continue his exploration of The Ocean’s mysteries, and morality and what it is to be a human being is a big player in the conversation.

“In his endless search for truth, man is condemned in his knowledge.” -Dr. Sartorius

Some excellent scenes of characters debating these facets and presenting their opinions take place. The scene after Hari wakes up and talks to Kris is outstanding, as is the birthday gathering for Snaut that really gets into the meaty parts of the morality discussions throughout part two.

You’ll love this movie if you:

  •  Love Nicholson’s descent into madness in The Shining, the conversations between Caleb and Ava in Ex Machina, the idea of ‘sentient, pure evil’ from The Fifth Element, or pretty much any part of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Are into groovy 70’s interior decorating mixed with futuristic sci-fi sets. The transition from hallway to library in Solaris is like walking from the Millennium Falcon into the mansion from Clue.
  • Like bald Russian Men arguing.
  • Adore lava Lamps.
  • Have three hours to kill, and want to be kind of freaked out for the last one of them.

You’ll hate this movie if you:

  • Thought Anne Hathaway’s speech about love being a scientific variable in Interstellar was a well-done, important part to the narrative (It wasn’t. It was really bad. Kind of ruined the character of Dr. Brand for me).

Solaris has a killer build-up to a great ending. Part Two is an awesome journey into morality and holding on to the past. It’s a slow burn at nearly three hours long, and this is pre-Star Wars ‘70’s Sci-fi, so don’t expect explosions and lightsaber duels, think more Star Trek: The Motion Picture extra-long tracking shots. But it is totally, 100%, absolutely worth a watch.