© 2013 Miro Roman

Solyaris, 1972

Andrei Tarkovsky on…

The quotes below are from The Tolstoy Complex, edited by Dr. Seweryn Kuśmierczyk at the
Polish Literature Department of Warsaw University. The excerpts are reproduced here with the
kind permission of the editor. The original translators’ names are shown in square brackets
following the references. English retranslation by Jan at Nostalghia.com.

My decision to make a screen adaptation of Stanisław Lem’s Solaris was not a result of my
interest in science fiction. The essential reason was that in Solaris Lem undertook a moral
problem I can closely relate to. The deeper meaning of Lem’s novel does not fit within the
confines of science fiction. To discuss only the literary form is to limit the problem. This is a
novel not only about the clash between human reason and the Unknown but also about moral
conflicts set in motion by new scientific discoveries. It’s about new morality arising as a result
of those painful experiences we call “the price of progress.” For Kelvin that price means having
to face directly his own pangs of conscience in a material form. Kelvin does not change the
principles of his conduct, he remains himself, which is the source of a tragic dilemma in him.
Why is it that in all the science fiction films I’ve seen the authors force the viewer to watch the
material details of the future? Why do they call their films — as Stanley Kubrick did —
prophetic? Not to mention that to specialists 2001 is in many instances a bluff and there is no
place for that in a work of art. I’d like to film Solaris in such a way as to avoid inducing in the
viewer a feeling of anything exotic. Technologically exotic that is. For example: if we filmed
passengers getting on a tram and we knew nothing about trams — let’s assume — because
we had never seen them before, then we’d obtain the effect similar to what Kubrick did in the
scene of the spaceship landing on the Moon. If we film the same landing the way we would
normally film a tram stop, everything will fall in its rightful place. Thus we need to put the
characters in real, not exotic, scenery because it is only through the perception of the former
by the characters in the film that it will become comprehensible to the viewer. That’s why
detailed expositions of technological processes of the future destroy the emotional foundation
of film.

Interview Dialog s Andreiem Tarkovskim o nauchnoi fantastikie na ekrane with Nikolai Abramov in
Ekran 1970-1971, Moscow 1971, pp. 162-165 [anonymous Pol. trans.]

I think the point is that humanity at each stage of its, let’s call it “technological,” development
must fight against a kind of spiritual entropy, dispersion of moral values. On the one hand it
tries to liberate itself from all morality, on the other — it tries to create one. This dilemma
becomes the source, both in individual lives and in the life of society in general, of unusually
dramatically charged situations. This dramatic liberation and at the same time the search for
the spiritual ideal will last until humanity achieves a stage of development where it will be able
to dedicate itself solely to moral problems. A stage at which man will attain absolute external
freedom, let’s call it social freedom, where he won’t have to worry about his daily bread
anymore, about a roof over his head, about securing his children’s future; where he will be able
to go deep inside himself with the same energy he previously devoted to external freedom. For
me what happened on the space station between Harey and Kelvin is simply a question of
man’s relation toward his own conscience.
Film cannot follow a book slavishly. To follow in Lem’s footsteps would be performing a
disservice to the author and to the book. I attempted to put on screen my own reader’s version
of Solaris. In order to remain faithful to the author I had to deviate from the novel now and then
in search of visual equivalents for certain themes. I needed the Earth for contrast although not
only for that… I wished to make the Earth an equivalent of something beautiful in viewer’s
mind. A subject of one’s longing. So that after he plunges into the mysterious fantastic
atmosphere of Solaris, when he suddenly glimpses the Earth he again feels normal, at home.
So that he begins to feel longing for this ordinariness. In other words, he feels the beneficial
influence of nostalgia. After all, Kelvin decides to stay on Solaris to conduct experiments — he
considers it his duty as a human being. Thus I needed the Earth in order for the viewer to
realise even more fully, sharply, the whole dramatic significance of his decision, this surrender
of returning to the planet which was and is our primal home.

Interview Ziemska moralność w kosmosie, czyli “Solaris” na ekranie with Zbigniew Podgórzec in
Tygodnik Powszechny 1972 (42), p. 3


Kris Kelvin: You love that which you can lose, yourself, a woman, a country.

Dr. Sartorius: Man was created by Nature in order to explore it. As he approaches Truth he is fated to Knowledge. All the rest is bullshit.

Hari: I have a feeling someone’s deceiving us.

Dr. Snaut: We don’t want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man!

Kris Kelvin: You mean more to me than any scientific truth.

Hari: Did you ever think of me?

Kris Kelvin: Only when I was sad.

Dr. Snaut: Science? Nonsense! In this situation mediocrity and genius are equally useless! I must tell you that we really have no desire to conquer any cosmos. We want to extend the Earth up to its borders. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. We don’t need other worlds. We need a mirror. We struggle to make contact, but we’ll never achieve it. We are in a ridiculous predicament of man pursuing a goal that he fears and that he really does not need. Man needs man!

Kris Kelvin: Whenever we show pity, we empty our souls.

Kris Kelvin: Guibariane did not die of fear, he died out of shame. The salvation of humanity is in its shame!

Kris Kelvin: There are so few of us!

Kris Kelvin: Well, anyway, my mission is finished. And what next? To return to Earth? Little by little everything will return to normal. I’ll find new interests, new acquaintances, but I won’t be able to devote all of myself to them.

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