Solaris is now emerging as a far more serious and philosophically probing work than Kubrick's technically brilliant but thematically shallow 2001. Happily, the film is also gaining a large cult following in this country, despite its belated release in a truncated version, shorn of more than 40 minutes of integral detail. Although Solaris does share with 2001 a basically religious sense of awe and cosmic mystery, there is nothing so pretentious as the Black Slab in its screenplay. Strangely enough, the first American critic to fully appreciate Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris was Jonas Mekas, who generally opposes on principle large-scale theatrical films: “I find it one of the most original, most poetic, most beautifully-paced science-fiction movies I've seen. The main idea of the film around which everything turns is the amazing discovery that the oceans (of the planet Solaris) can ‘think': they absorb all human thoughts and are able to send some of our desires back to us, in material form, under certain circumstances.” (The Village Voice) The story deals with a series of expeditions to the planet Solaris, and the interactions among the various earth scientists there, with each other and with each other's memories.
Adapted from the novel by Stanislas Lemm, the respected Polish writer, Solaris is one of those rare screen works which improves upon and deepens its literary source: in fact, Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris is nothing less than an elegy for the Earth as we know it.