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Solaris
The Criterion Collection
(Blu-ray)

review by Zach B.

 

 

Not Rated

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 

 


Studio: Criterion

Retail Price: $39.95

Features: Audio 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, 2011







Solaris is presented in a 1080p High Definition transfer, with the widescreen aspect ratio 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.

 


Solaris was 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 most. 

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.

The always outstanding included Criterion booklet features an essay by critic Philip Lopate and an appreciation by legendary director Akira Kurosawa. 

 


Solaris
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.