Solaris: BFI Film Classics by Mark Bould (book review).

I have to confess to be not being much of a fan of the original Russian 1972 film of ‘Solaris’. Like author Mark Bould, I saw it on Channel 4 back in 1981 and the strongest memory I have of it was various people looking into mirrors as if it meant something and me catnapping occasionally from boredom at how slow paced it was. The body language or film direction technique between us and the Russians clearly felt different and I suspect only someone devoted to foreign films and reading the occasional subtitle stayed awake that night.


This BFI book tends to focus a lot more on director Andrei Tarkovsky far more than his film from the start before getting into a plot synopsis of Stanilaw Lem’s 1961 original novel. There is reference given to the 2002 version directed by Steven Soderbergh but that is less of a focus here. Bould does take delight in referencing comparisons to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and even ‘UFO’ for certain use of clothing material although back then, string vest material was very popular regardless, seen as a means to let heat out than to keep people warm.

When it comes to the film synopsis, throughout Bould continually takes detours to films before but mostly after the original ‘Solaris’ to make points of influence. Ultimately, this tended to serve as a distraction or padding. If he needed to do this, then surely it would have made more sense to do this as a separate chapter. I doubt if anyone would have thought any less of him had the film synopsis chapter been smaller. Having to weave through it to find out what was going on was therefore more of an effort and even lacks Bould drawing conclusions at the end. Considering the small page count compared to other books in this series, I’m sure Bould could have done more. Whether this was because of lack of access to material or not is never said but this adds to the overall weakness here. Read with caution.

GF Willmetts

December 2014

(pub: BFI/Palgrave MacMillan. 96 page illustrated small enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84457-805-4)

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