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Solaris DVD

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Released in 1972, Solaris is Andrei Tarkovsky's third feature and his most far-reaching examination of human perceptions and failings. It's often compared to Kubrick's 2001, but although both bring a metaphysical dimension to bear on space exploration, Solaris has a claustrophobic intensity which grips the attention over spans of typically Tarkovskian stasis. Donatas Banionis is sympathetic as the cosmonaut sent to investigate disappearances on the space station orbiting the planet Solaris, only to be confronted by his past in the guise of his dead wife, magnetically portrayed by Natalya Bondarchuk. The ending is either a revelation or a conceit, depending on your viewpoint. On the DVD: Solaris reproduces impressively on DVD in widescreen--which is really essential here--and Eduard Artemiev's ambient score comes over with pristine clarity. There are over-dubs in English and French, plus subtitles in 12 languages. An extensive stills gallery, detailed filmographies for cast and crew, and comprehensive biographies of Tarkovsky and author Stanislaw Lem are valuable extras, as are the interviews with Bondarchuk and Tarkovsky's sister and an amusing 1970s promo-film for Banionis. It would have been better had the film been presented complete on one disc, instead of stretched over two. Even so, the overall package does justice to a powerful and disturbing masterpiece. --Richard Whitehouse

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Psychological drama from Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, adapted from the Stanislaw Lem novel of the same name. The film charts the strange events which befall a group of young cosmonauts who work on a space station orbiting the ocean-covered planet Solaris. Fellow cosmonaut Chris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is sent to investigate the occurrences, and soon begins encountering a variety of supernatural phenomena, including the physical manifestation of his own painful memories of his late wife. Kelvin tries to get to the bottom of the mystery and begins looking for a way to communicate with the powerful forces of Solaris.

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