Deimantas Narkevičius
Revisiting Solaris, 2007
35 mm film on DVD, 18 min 28 sec
Courtesy of the artist
The novel Solaris by Stanislaw Lem and the like-named lm by Andrei Tarkovsky based on it tell us about residents of a space station studying the planet Solaris. According to the plot certain mysterious phenomena are going on at the station: the planet enters into a dialogue with its researchers and sends them "guests" in the form of simulacra, that is, physical likenesses of the persons and events, which are associated with the past traumatic experiences for the spaceship inhabitants.

Deimantas Narkevičius seems to follow the same plot but he is more interested in Lem's book and Tarkovsky's lm as such. To give an example: in Revisiting Solaris he borrows landscapes and soundtrack from Tarkovsky's lm and makes the lead actor Donatas Banionis as his protagonist. However, the focus is on the concluding chapter of the novel which Tarkovsky himself rejected at the time and proposed his own ending. In Tarkovsky's lm Kris Calvin returns to Earth where he is met by his father as a prodigal son on the porch of his home. Whereas at the end of Lem's novel the protagonist lands on planet Solaris. Hence the dual interpretation of the title Revisiting Solaris suggests itself – it can be a new visit to planet Solaris or another viewing of the lm Solaris.

It should be noted that the ending of Tarkovsky's lm is also rather ambiguous: the final scenes suggest that the protagonist's return to Earth can very well be another simulacrum created by Solaris. Similar double meaning can be found in Narkevičius's lm where he shows the hero's stay on Solaris. He lmed these episodes in two buildings: one is the seat of the former Vilnius KGB now housing the Museum of Genocide Victims, and the other is the interior of the television center around which the well-known tragic events, associated with perestroika, took place in 1991. These empty interiors might have been employed by Narkevičius as neutral lm sets, but it is equally logical to assume that we are witnessing more simulacra created by Solaris: materialized images of traumatic post-Soviet memory.

In Narkevičius's lm it is not quite clear which part Donatas Banion- is playing. Is he playing the same Kris Calvin in the episode from Lem's novel which had been excluded from Tarkovsky's lm? Or is he playing himself as the actor, who had once played that part and is now transformed into a "guest", a materialization of his own memory? The second version is corroborated by the fact that there are two more characters in the lm: a married couple played by Narkevičius and his wife – so we have every reason to assume that they are the ones who play Kris Calvin and his wife Hari.

We could continue uncovering more ambiguities concealed in Revisiting Solaris, its narrative structure and the hidden dialectic of genuine and imaginary meanings. But it is amply obvious that the lm is based on direct identification of traumas, memories, reality and illusions of imagination. It is noteworthy that the black-and-white landscapes of the planet Solaris, appearing in Narkevičius's lm, are in fact the photographs by the outstanding Lithuanian artist and composer Ciurlionis, which he took in 1905 in Anapa not far from the location where much later Tarkovsky was filming his Solaris.
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