The Criterion Collection
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 166 Minutes
Starring: Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Yuri Yarvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky, Nikolai Grinko, Anatoly Solonitsyn
Screenplay by: Fridrikh Gorenshtein, Andrei Tarkovsky
Based on the novel by: Stanislaw Lem
Directed by: Andrei Tarkovsky
Retail Price: $39.95
Commentary with Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie, Deleted and Alternate
Scenes, Video Interviews, Stanislaw Lem Documentary Excerpt
Specs: 2.35:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition, Russian PCM Mono, English Subtitles, Chapters (33 Chapters)
Released: May 24th,
presented in a 1080p High Definition transfer, with the widescreen
of 2.35:1. First, I'll get the imperfections out of the way: there is a
good deal of shimmering throughout (which is distracting at times), and
dirt pieces and blemishes find their way into the transfer. Other than
that though, detail is magnificent (just look at the water drops on the
leaves in the opening shots), and the contrast of grain feels just
right. Fleshtones and black levels hit their mark, but most astounding
is the jaw-dropping color saturation. Not only is it balanced, but
everything in the movie looks so lush, so rich and so life-like — so
much to the point where it feels like the image is literally popping
right out at you. This is a gorgeous looking movie, and this Blu-ray
(now with the color-corrected sequence from the previous Criterion DVD)
certainly does it justice.
Solaris features an uncompressed Russian Mono track. Even
with the limitations of a single channel, it's an effective track.
Dialogue is crisp and always easy to hear, while the film's sound
effects — no matter how large or simple — come in remarkably discrete.
Eduard Artemyev's score comes in rather well, too.
English subtitles are included.
initially released on DVD by Criterion several years ago, so this
Blu-ray edition features ported supplements. First on deck is an Audio Commentary with Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie. The two are authors of the book The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue.
The commentary actually lifts information from said book, and more or
less alternate in offering insights (it does sound like they are
reading from the page more often than not). A lot is covered:
biographical information on the filmmaker, thoughts on characters,
discussion of narrative ambiguities, technical details, Russian
politics, symbolism and much, much more. Takovsky buffs and those
seeking a deeper reading into the movie will appreciate this track the
There are nine Deleted and Alternate Scenes,
which total 25 minutes. Tarkovsky cut the film signifcantly before it
went to Cannes in 1972, and presented here are scenes from an earlier
cut. Obviously not as oustanding as the film's transfer, but you'd be
surprised at how decent the shape is of these scenes given their age.
There are a variety of Video Interviews with
key talent from the film: actress Natalya Bondarchuk (32:23),
cinematographer Vadim Yusov (33:57), art director Mikhail Romadin
(16:48) and composer Eduard Artemyev (21:46). Watching these interviews
gives a detailed view of the production of Solaris,
and it's fascinating to see how the film was created from multiple
creative perspectives. Just as intriguing is how each artist talks
about his or her relationship with Tarkovsky. Engrossing and always
thoughtful, these interviews come off as great film school lectures.
Rounding out the video-based supplements is a 5 minute Stanislaw Lem Documentary Excerpt thair aired on Polish television. Lem, the author of Solaris the novel, was not a big fan of the movie. These few minutes help illustrate why.
always outstanding included Criterion booklet features an essay by
critic Philip Lopate and an appreciation by legendary director Akira
is a fascinating science-fiction epic, and this Criterion Blu-ray
edition of the film features a stunning high-definition transfer. The
uncompressed mono mix is also nice, while the included supplements
prove to be a treasure trove of detail about Andrei Tarkovsky and the
film's production. A worthy upgrade, and most definitely a worthy
purchase for cinephiles that did not own the previous Criterion DVD
edition of this film.