Bad, vile and meaningless: Slowaris from Alan's clob

Солярис aka. Slowaris

The name originally reserved for a particular operating system from Sun fits better at this sci-fi masterpiece... rendered nearly worthless by the worst Finnish subtitles in the Universe and the history of the whole Universe, namely the subtitles in Tarkovsky's Solaris shown today by SEA. What? Okay okay. The camerawork was still brilliant, I concede that, but still, that doesn't give you the food required to watch this 3-hour slug.

First off, when the Russian title appeared on screen, I already chuckled. There was simply something utterly amusing in seeing Russian letters spell out SOLARIS. Don't ask me what it was, exactly. Perhaps the fact that R & N letters appear to me as if miswritten by a child. The chuckle, however, left the right sort of amused-puzzled mood for watching the film. And trying to understand the trifle-damned translations.

Let me give you an example. A choice quote, spoken in all seriousness: "You are a good man, but bad-looking". Or, if that doesn't quite convey it, imagine all the Russian sayings that were translated directly or awkwardly. Something like "You are like a man who spends a lot of time in trying to attain things that aren't good for him to attain". I could not stifle my laughter at the absurdity of watching the incomprehensible drivel that drifted by. Most of the time it seemed so badly out of sync with the actors that half of the time you couldn't even tell who was speaking.

If the movie had philosophical aspects, I pretty much missed them. There was something that hauntingly reminded of the other Solaris movie, but apart from that, the drivel conquered the meaning.

At the end of this ordeal, I said to my gf, now I've seen something Russian, and it reminds me greatly of something Japanese. She laughed merrily, probably because she realized that I was about to compare it to Japanese movies while I were speaking. And indeed, the puzzlement I felt for most of the duration of the movie was a familiar feeling to carry home.


Make no mistake, kids. Movies are hard to translate. This reminds me of certain fan translationwork for none other but Lord of the Rings. You may know the scene over field early on in the movie, where Frodo quotes Bilbo saying something like "Roads are dangerous things. If you don't watch your feet carefully, you don't know where you get swept to". Now, this particularly lovely piece came across translated as: "Roads are dangerous things. If you don't watch your feet carefully, you don't know what you tripped on." I paused the stream and roared in laughter. In fact, it turned out, this loathsome toad for a translator managed to crap on every single of those immemorable Tolkien quotes. In the end, there was some funky comments, as if the guy was patting himself on the back on the job well done. Death for him, is my vote. But don't make it a swift one.

Epilogue 2 (8.9.2004)

I read the book, and in fact enjoyed it. I understand now that the remake of Solaris, starred by George Clooney, is in fact an interesting work in its own right that is more based on the book than goes by the book. It truely deserves to be called art. The only negative part about that movie is, imo, the rather dull Sun-style digital rendition of Solaris, which probably looks naive in decades to come, when we finally really understand how to use CGI.

I was taken by the powerful imagination of ideas that had gone into Lem's book. Several pages spanned just descriptions of the ocean, as a kind of interlude or prelude to the book's discussion about human nature. Like any great book, it's really about humans, and ironically it portrays the human space conquest as search of mirrors of planet Earth, to conquer them or to be conquered by them.

I would like to call this sort of sci-fi as the psychological sci-fi, and I guess there really isn't any other kind of sci-fi... But the sci-fi setting allows exploring the sort of ideas that would be very hard to bring forward in different kind of novel.

It was a great pleasure, and mr. Lem certainly gained quite a bit of my respect.