Advanced Mid/High The Dialogic Interpretation of Sci Fi

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On the Eve of the Cosmonautics Day, the holiday celebrated in Russia on April 12th, I offer you to enjoy an episode of TV film Solaris (1968, directed by Boris Nirenburg). The dialouge-driven movie, freely adapted from Polish science writer Stanisłav Lem book of the same name, borrows many of its dialogues and details.

Science Fiction as a mass cultural phenomenon and a literary genre, within which the concepts of the future are formulated, has a lot to do with the peculiarities of contemporary environments. Sci Fi is often concerned with the ways in which cultures interact. As any contemporary Sci Fi film Solaris has precise and creative affinities with the fantastic strain in Russian literature. The relationships with the Other, the sense of being on the “threshold” as we meet in Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, and Gogol, we also encounter in Soliaris.

Set in some future time, on the space station on the planet Solaris, which looks like a huge pulsating mass, this film must be viewed actively and with some effort. Although this is a slow paced film and have no special effects, I think it still holds up today without looking dated. In Solaris the dialogue transpires between humankind and the planet, and finally does between the director and the public. This film is about the voyage of the psychologist Chris Kelvin to the space station to talk to three scientists at the station. Chris has to investigate certain strange happenings at the Solaris space sation, and decide on the basis of his findings whether to destroy the alien entity or try to establish contact with it. It appears that the planet has the capability of reading the minds of the scientists aboard the space station and creating 'doubles' of people from their past.

The parabolic meaning of Solaris centers upon a problematic communicative relathionships between the human beings (i.e. Earth, world) and the planet Solaris (anti-world). The terrestrial society of the future, as the film director envisions it, is characterized by its rigid organizaiotn, a social order, which refuses to accept diversity, and annihilates whatever does not correspond to “objective laws” of science. The anti-world of Solaris is disturbing to terrestrial minds because it invalidates the fixed laws and rules, to which they accustomed. However, it turns out that the waters of Solaris have a power to absorb and envelope mental messages of austronauts, including their memories of melancholic or gloomy and aggressive experiences. As a result, the mindset of the living planet of Solaris proves to be the materialization of the subconscious portion of mind. Thus, anti-world explored by scientists-austronauts is not external, but instead the imaginable form of a human psychic activity. Here the key of interpretation of the film’s message – the challenging anti-world compels human beings to come to terms with a difference, which can neither be distanced nor evaded.

While Solaris proposes a voyage into an animate space at once external and internal, the film director apparently recaptures the ambivalence of science ficition’s message. Therefore, an interpretation of the main theme of the film remains open, i.e. dialogical, which is crucial to understanding of the film.