The Persistence of Perception: Past, Present, and Memory in Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’

The hypnotizing heart of the great psychological sci-fi film.

The hypnotizing heart of the great psychological sci-fi film

The other day I posted my three favorite science-fiction films to Twitter: 1) Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; 2) Tarkovsky’s Solaris; and 3) Ridley Scott’s Alien. Besides a lot of flack for not including Blade Runner, the predominant response from people was that Solaris didn’t really count as sci-fi. I’m not sure why folks come to that conclusion so often, but best I can figure it’s because ultimately the film’s central conflict is a psychological one. Sure, there’s a space station, and a foreign planet covered in a living ocean that has strange powers, but the struggle of Kris isn’t against that planet, ocean, or even the strange powers, it is against his own past, his perceptions of his past, and how both affect his present.

In the following video essay from Jack’s Movie Reviews, this particular facet – how Solaris depicts and interprets the relationship between the past, the present, and memory – is delved into with the usual erudite detail we’ve come to expect from this YouTube channel. Not only does Jack present a fascinating perspective on, well, perspective, he also proves how Solaris is perhaps the godfather of a most-intriguing sub-genre: “psy-fi.”

H. Perry Horton: Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist