Long considered the socialist response to ”2001,” Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky’s most famous work, remains one tough bowl of borscht. Psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is dispatched to a space station orbiting the titular sentient planet, which seems to be probing his most troubling memories and bringing them to life. Less a sci-fi film than story of a man in torment, this stunningly beautiful and borderline inscrutable 1972 Cannes prizewinner feels, ironically, almost as distant as Kubrick’s film. So here’s some advice: Since Tarkovsky sensibly divided his very long movie into two parts, take a break. Think about stuff like ponies, rainbows, and sunny days — and then reengage his hypnotic meditation on guilt, human intelligence, and the nature of man’s soul.
As for the extras, they’re admirable, including commentary tracks and interviews with surviving cast and crew members. But let’s be honest: The splashy, two-disc presentation afforded to Tarkovsky’s masterpiece has less to do with its importance than with director Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming remake — which is a shame, as anyone with three hours, loads of patience, and a keen understanding of Soviet symbolism can tell you.