Solaris (1972)

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“When man is happy, the meaning of life and other eternal themes rarely interest him. These questions should be asked at the end of one’s life…the happiest people are those who are not interested in these cursed questions.”
– Snaut

Solaris is easily the most interesting conception of making contact with an alien I’ve ever seen, and insofar as it creates in the viewer the unsettling queerness that might accompany such an event, it’s successful. An alien would be, well, alien, right? Not anthropomorphic. Not like us. Not a monster.  Not a cute little guy with a glowing finger. Something strange, mystical, and unknowable. But how do you invoke the unknowable without tipping over the edge into just a bunch of weird stuff? It’s a fine line, for sure. Peter Weir successfully treads it in Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Tarkovsky succeeds with Solaris. Someone, I can’t remember whom, talked about film as an art form still tied by the umbilical cord to literature and theater, having not yet fully come into its own, and the primary value of a film like Solaris is that it feels like it’s giving us a peek into what that mature state might look like.

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