Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Film Solyaris (Солярис or Solaris; Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972); Magical Anjali British synthpop sitarist

Wow, what an experience my wife and I had tonight seeing Solaris, based on a novel by one of my favorite science fiction writers, Stanislaw Lem (my favorite work of his is his humorous set of short stories, The Cyberiad, written in Polish in 1967 and translated into English in 1974 , about two inventors of robots, who themselves are robots). It was the first film in the They Came from Beyond international science fiction film series at the Duke Screen Society.

As we knew from reviews we had seen, it is a very long film at 165 minutes with many drawn-out but compelling scenes. Though it's a classic and has much to recommend it highly, I must admit that the first half I found a bit difficult to sit through - having just had a nice pasta dinner and some chocolate didn't help :-). It is such a complex film that it probably takes at least two or three viewings to feel that one has understood much of it.

The basic story is that a Russian spaceship in orbit around a planet has been sending back confusing status, and Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is sent to investigate. He finds out that the crew has been experimenting with sending pulses of radiation into the planet's vast ocean and are in turn manipulated by some sort of innate intelligence on the planet. "Guests" materialize on the ship, crafted from mental elements of the crews' minds.

The first night there, Kris himself wakes up to find his long-dead love Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk) by his side. The other two crewmates, scientists Dr. Snaut (Jüri Järvet) and Dr. Sartorius (Anatoli Solonitsyn) puncture any misconceptions that Kris may have by clarifying that "she" is not real, and invite Kris to try looking at a blood sample, which clearly is not human ("she" does "bleed" when hurt, but the "blood" can be easily wiped away). The scientists in fact want to experiment on sending an annihilation sacrificial pulse of radiation to the ocean below, and imply, it seems, an interest in using Hari for that purpose.

The film is unlike anything that I have seen before, and begs many philosophic questions about the nature of reality and existence, the meaning of love, time and timelessness, and much more. The sterile and very unnatural milieu of the spaceship, as well as the melancholic and minimalistic music and sound effects, make one despair for being in nature, and reflect on the early lakeside scenes. The ending (no spoilers here!) leaves room for interpretation and even understanding of just what happened. Hauntingly amazing.

On a more upbeat note, a friend sent a link to a UK commercial, below, with very nice music from a popular sitarist who goes by Magical Anjali (Anjali Bhatia). She is apparently planning a US album release. Check out her MySpace page; the song accompanying the commercial reminds me of Beat Generation 60s party music with beautiful sitar. Rock on!


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