Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 Russian film has been called a “sci-fi masterpiece,” and “excruciatingly boring” also. This edit takes the original as a diamond in the rough. Solaris is one of the most literary and thoughtful science fiction movies ever made. With some careful cutting and polishing a real gem can emerge.
The movie has interesting challenges for a faneditor. The director’s style uses a lot of extra long, extra slow takes that are tough to manipulate without losing continuity. The soundtrack is monophonic and the subtitles are an extra layer to juggle. On the other hand there is a lot to work with. Whole sequences can be deleted without affecting the plot in the least. The long slow pans and zooms provide many good spots for trims.
Hard core Tarkovsky fans might really hate this edit. And if your idea of top quality entertainment is Transformers style nonstop action and quick cuts, this edit is definitely not your cup of tea. It is still an old-school foreign movie that is long and slow, with characters who talk a lot about their relationships to each other.
The 2002 Criterion DVD switches from color to black and white at arbitrary moments, which makes the whole movie more confusing. This fanedit standardizes the coloring scheme. Color sequences are in the present. Black and white sequences are in the past, or on video, or in a dream or memory. The black and white sequences that were colored have been tinted blue. It’s interesting that the Criterion Blu-Ray that is coming out in May 2011 will also tint the black and white to blue, but they don’t say if there is any logic to the recoloring scheme.
Also, the original film is cursed with an lousy splicing job. There are many, many splices that make the picture jump and distort. It’s especially bad in a film like Solaris that has so many slow, deliberate shots where bad splices really stand out. They make the film distracting and unsettling but not in a good way. Many of these bad splices have been fixed by cutting or patching. It is painstaking work but worth it to see a smoother, more stable look.
- Deleted Russian language credits from the beginning of the movie.
- Added credits to opening nature walk (the primary actors and crew only).
- Cut line “He wanted to run away when he saw me.” Makes no sense in the context.
- Cut nameless boy meeting nameless girl. A needless distraction.
- Changed translation to “the station might be moved from Solaris’ orbit” to communicate better that Berton is opposed to moving the station.
- Trimmed thundershower sequence for better pacing.
- Changed translation to “I’ve already seen it before.” If father had seen the testimony “many times,” his son would probably know about it by now. It makes more sense that Burton’s testimony was an embarrassing episode that everyone wanted to forget.
- Cut large chunks of Burton’s testimony and reactions from the other officials and scientists, and rearranged the remaining scenes. No more contradictory statement that the expedition will be terminated. The sequence now covers just the essential points: how Solaris affected Burton’s mental balance, and the skepticism he received from the expedition’s managers.
- As Kris stares at portrait of his mother, fade to a live shot of her. Adds interest to a long take and gives a better idea of his internal thoughts.
- Trimmed shot of father weakly calling to an absent Kris. Less confusing now that father stays in character as a strong personality.
- Cut line “You’re jealous he’s going to bury me.” That’s overkill on the family psychodrama. Keep focus on the astronaut and his mission.
- Cut TV program about Solaris and replaced with a brief, invented show. In this edit, the Solaris expedition is old news, no longer important enough to rate a TV program. Also, the sequence is an unnecessary and excessive info dump. The invented show uses a deleted scene of burning scraps in a mirrored room and new music.
- Improved some translations about Fechner and his orphaned son.
- Cut all windshield shots of cars driving on freeways. The much shorter sequence now focuses on a worried Burton in his driverless car, tinted purple to match the sky, and the grimy, rushed city of the future.
- Cut almost all of the farewell “burning papers” sequence. In this edit the trip to Solaris is not very time consuming and Kris’s farewell is not forever. This is consistent with Burton, who returned to Earth and testified about Solaris soon after his experience there. Also the acting is poor and none of the information is really essential. Only a short scene remains of Kris chilling on the porch in twilight, tinted blue.
- Shortened and rearranged the space travel sequence. The silly, amateurish corkscrewing camera moves are gone, replaced by a few effects that attempt to stay in the same idiom.
- Approach and entry to Solaris Station is trimmed for pacing.
- Deleted line “You’ve got guests.”
- Poor Kris’s awkward and unconvincing pratfall is cut. The guy is a trained astronaut, not Buster Keaton.
- Trimmed Kris’s “spooky window” reactions in Gibarian’s quarters, and also the one in the corridor soon after. The scenes lead nowhere and confuse the narrative instead of adding atmosphere.
- Trimmed Gibarian in the freezer.
- Tinted Kris’s nighttime quarters blue but kept Gibarian’s video recording black and white.
- Cut Kris peeking in the mirror. The guy is a trained astronaut, not Scooby Doo.
- Trimmed zoom into sleeping Kris and his awakening.
- Removed Kris ripping Hari’s dress. Focuses the scene on his reaction to the needle mark.
- Cut intermission.
- Trimmed capsule launch for better pacing and a more convincing special effect. Cut stunt double on fire – it’s gratuitous. Muted Hari’s screams to sound more like they are coming from inside the capsule.
Trimmed zoom into sleeping Kris to move the action along.
- Removed Hari cutting her dress off. Trimmed and rearranged the bedroom scene and trimmed the following corridor scene.
- Cut lines “But who have you wronged?” “You, among others.” Excessive, unclear and unrealistic dialogue.
- Recut Kris’s home movies to be shorter and more active, and recolored them black and white.
- Cut Hari seeing water falling from ceiling. The director is implying we are already in Solaris-created reality. But this edit keeps a firmer separation between real and virtual, and we stay in actual reality until the final fever dream.
- Trimmed Hari sleeping.
- Trimmed the crew waiting in the library.
- Cut Kris reading from book. The quote is artful and apropos, but the library sequences are too long and dismal and need to be cut wherever possible. With this cut there is more focus on Sartorious’s jealousy and the contention between him, Kris and Hari.
- Changed some translations of Snaut’s speech. “Man needs man” becomes “Humankind needs humankind.” Clearer meaning in the context of alien contact.
- Cut Snaut’s alert about impending weightlessness.
- Cut most of Hari’s art experience, keeping just a few shots to give a taste.
- Cut weightless flying. It looks kinda fake, but the main thing is to move the action out of the library sooner.
- Intercut some remaining shots with the ocean special effect to create a shorter, more intense buildup to Hari’s liquid oxygen crash.
- Cut bedroom scene of Kris saying he’ll live on the station with Hari. In this edit, Hari becomes more remote and enigmatic, more in keeping with her goodbye note.
- Shortened Kris’s monologue about the philosophy of love to keep the focus relevant to the plot.
- Cut and trimmed scenes of Kris in bed with fever, including the mirrored room. We are starting to move towards the climax here and the storyline progresses more quickly.
- Trimmed some scenes with Mama. Muted the annoying sound of the rattling vase lid.
- Cut scene of Kris in bed asking for Hari; instead we go directly to his scene with Snaut.
- Cut entire final scene in library and extreme closeup of Kris’s ear. My pretentiousness meter went off the chart!
- Trimmed Kris’s voiceover philosophizing as we fly through clouds, to focus on info relevant to the story.
- Added more cloud whiteout to smooth transitions during the final camera pullback sequence.
- Added a final credits scroll to the end of the movie, in English, showing credits that don’t appear in the beginning of the movie, and with fanedit credits added.
- And many small trims and technical fixes throughout the whole movie.
Review by geminigod — June 7, 2011 @ 6:50 pm
From an editing standpoint, the video looks amazing. It looks like somebody did a great job restoring the movie and that you preserved the quality in your edit well. Your cuts appeared to be technically flawless and worked fine within the context of the original story, what little story there is anyway given its abstract nature. Though to be honest and fair about ranking the technical side of this edit relative to other fanedits, it would not be comparing apples to apples to give you 10/10 for your technical work. There is virtually no audio in this entire movie other than dialogue and a few sound effects, thus making the editing a relatively simple process.
I am struggling how best to rank this because of the age of the material. Based on your stated objectives to essentially preserve the directors original vision and only to cut out the most terribly, unacceptably long portions of the movie, this edit succeeded very well. Though, you still didn’t manage to remove all of the “pretentious philosophizing” in my opinion, granted it is a very subjective matter. There was one point where I felt like the director was cramming the moral message of the movie down my throat when the character goes off on a long monologue that I shall briefly paraphrase, “why are we exploring the stars when we should be exploring inward into our own minds and hearts instead.” Maybe the message struck me particularly bad because of my own present-day biases. It is a political soft spot for me when people try to discredit or dismiss what little is left of America’s space program.
Based only on your intentions, I would probably give you ~9/10 as the previous reviewers did, but I just can’t do that. I’m sorry. For me this story still doesn’t work either on an abstract level or a narrative level. It is still beyond terrible in its pacing relative to movies being made then and today (and this is coming from a guy who will happily sit through the original 2001). I would love to see an alternate, more ambitious version of this movie that tries to bring it more inline with modern movie expectations by cutting another unnecessary 30+ minutes out of it, adding music, and reworking the story a bit.
Review by spicediver — May 17, 2011 @ 8:36 am
This edit is superb.
Engaging storytelling through editing and technically very well put together.
I’ve seen Steven Sordeberg’s 2002 adpation of the novel about 6 or 7 times. I adore that film.
Tarkovsky’s adpation I’ve only seen once, in a small inner city arthouse theaterette with beanbags and mattresses where, for the first and only time in my life, I fell asleep in a cinema. For about 30 minutes I think.
Maybe I can blame the beanbags, but we all know that many viewers find the film torturously slow. I found the original cut full of good ideas and with a good cast, but with too much pretentious dialogue and too much arty but pointless padding. It’s a ripe candidate for a shorter version, created by an editor without Tarkovsky looking over his shoulder.
Well done Brumous – you’ve transformed the film. It’s a milestone sci-fi flick despite its flaws and now you’ve removed many of those flaws. No sci-fi fan now as any excuse not give Solaris at least one viewing.
10/10 from me.
Reviewed by Gatos on May 30, 2011
Well I just finished watching Solaris Station and I was very impressed. I watched the original in preparation for watching this fanedit and Brumous had warned me ahead of time that it can be quite boring (most notably the infamous tokyo driving sequence). My only other exposure to this material had been through seeing some of the soderbergh/clooney remake. I found the original Solaris enjoyable and not too boring (although watching it in 30 minute segments may have helped make it less boring).
As is my usual rule, I did not read the cutlist before watching Solaris Station. Brumous firstling is very well done. The audio and video editing was excellent nothing noticeable or jarring. Other than the considerable shortening of the tokyo sequence i honestly could not tell what had been excised from this edit. The pace and mood of the original are intact but Brumous’ edit gives viewers a more accessible version of Solaris to watch. Rating 9/10. Excellent job. Great fanedit and forced me to watch a movie i probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise!