Paolo Pardo

The Italian Solaris

A restored version of the "Italian Solaris" has been released on DVD in Italy. This is thus a good time to provide you with an overview of the various problems associated with the original Italian theatrical release of the film. Paolo Pardo has done the research and provided us with the following.

In Maya Turovskaja's book O Tarkovskom, Donatas Banionis (on page 139) talks about the fact that Tarkovsky came to Italy in 1974 for the premiere of Solaris but that, just a few hours before the projection they decided to not show him the film since they had fear of his possible reactions to it. Some time later a friend told Tarkovsky about these cuts, and he ended up having to sue Mr. De Laurentiis, the Italian distributor of the film, over the matter. Tarkovsky talks about this in his diaries, Time Within Time: The Diaries 1970-1986.

De Laurentiis deliberately decided to cut almost one hour from the film, in order to make it a "true" science fiction film — more appealing to the general public. This is even evident by looking at the film's Italian promotional materials, and also the cover of the Italian DVD: our hero wearing full astronaut's equipment — you don't see anything like that in the actual movie — apparently saving a damsel in distress.

If you see (the Italian) Solaris for the first time, the thing you immediately notice is the odd dubbing. Although I don't prefer dubbed movies, this is the only way you can watch a film in Italy which comes from abroad. For this reason, we have quite good dubbers, and the best of them give their voices to various actors. In Solaris they used a kind of "raw" dubbers, their voices have strong dialects/accents and have a totally negative and baffling influence on the film. In addition to this, there are various mistakes in dialogue translations (e.g., they mistook "library" for "laboratory").

Now about the cuts. They are so many that it is quite impossible to list all of them. To get a rough idea of what they did to Solaris, just consider the fact that Berton and his son are totally absent from the film. There is thus no dialogue between Berton and Kris, and no trace of Berton's black & white inquiry film and of his car trip (and therefore none of Tarkovsky's amazing juxtaposition of traffic noise and nature). But footage was also cut on the space station from the Sartorius and Snaut dialogues — especially from Snaut's talk just a few minutes before the end of the movie.

After all this cutting, the Italian editor found a solution to retrieve some of the important dialogues which disappeared: they put them in the mouth of a brand new character who is not in the original film, and they did an "off-screen dialogue digest." Sometimes the dialogue is completely rewritten — one may think this was done in an attempt to try to achieve some level of internal consistency, but the actual reasons are often quite unclear.

The film starts with titles appearing over the images of flowing water, with Bach's musical background. Then, just after the starting titles, we see Kris' father walking towards him (and us) screaming "Kris come home! You have nothing better to do than walking around picking soil?!" (Original dialogue: "What did you have to offend him for? You're too harsh"). Here also the editing has been altered, since this sequence appears several minutes later in the original version (Kris' father has just heard from Berton that he is very upset and is leaving). From now on, Kris' father takes upon himself his original dialogues, plus a digest of the ones which were cut from the now surgically removed Berton. So, starting from the very first dialogue lines, he is forced to show a seriously split personality...

Now about the "digest" process. Sometimes the original dialogue is replaced by the "digested" one, and the various characters have interchangeable dialogues: Kris and his father with Berton, Snaut with Sartorius. More often a character says something in the sequences where nobody talks or his original dialogue is replaced by the digested one. Maybe the pivotal sequence to examine this process is the one in which Kris is burning papers and other things in the yard. You can find there a totally "counterfeit" conversation between Kris and his father: both speak when they aren't visible or have their back on the camera or — this is almost unbelievable — the smoke from the fire hides their mouths, permitting the dubber to put additional words into their mouths. The following table illustrates the process.

Action Who Original Dialogue Italian Version
The father passes by Kris, walking with his head down, with his hands in his pockets. Kris (keeps burning papers)

There's no point in keeping these papers... The ones to hold are in my room...

My research notes... my thesis... I held on to so much...

This is totally useless stuff. The things to be saved are in my own room...

University works, old magazines... I wonder why I treasured everything...

  The father

If something should happen, I will find someone to take care of them...

I'll come up with something...

Your way of approaching the problems of knowledge seems too extreme to me.

Knowledge is a moral issue.
The camera here frames Kris and his father. Kris Don't look for that film, I'm taking it with me. Remember? The one of the bonfire? Men make science a moral or immoral thing, father.

The camera moves to frame the aunt who — wrapping up the face with her shawl — walks towards the house.

The framing is Kris' back, and papers on fire.
The father (going off the frame) Yes, of course.

I know, I know...

(off-screen) But we aren't so all-powerful people, Kris. Sometimes we aren't able to know what is ethical and what isn't. Some people say we need to bomb the Solaris ocean, for example. But the Solaris ocean is a living organism, a thinking brain: you discovered this. Is it right trying to kill it, even though it doesn't have human attributes?

Finally, here is another example. They have just seen the movie with the younger Berton and the board of inquiry (this entire sequence is absent from the Italian version). Kris and his father are sharing a moment of intimacy inside the house.

Action Who Original Dialogue Italian Version
The frame concentrates on a picture of Kris' mother on the wall. Kris' father

(Talking of Berton) He's a tactful man. If he decided to come, it's because he considers this important.

Although, I admit, I'd rather not see anyone now.

You and I rarely get a chance to talk.
Sometimes you seem an accountant to me, fully taken up with his profit and loss accounts at the end of the year. Do you remember your mother? [Note that a picture of Kris' mother is shown now]. She used to rebuke you for the same reasons. Everybody say the Solaris case is a lost one. I don't understand your stubbornness, your persistence.

Now we see Kris in front of the large window overlooking the children playing in the garden outside.

Kris I'm glad to hear you say that... Even if it's on the last day.

There's something going wrong at the station. We are getting unclear news. I have been instructed to go and see. They need me to do a report. Maybe they will decide to dismiss the space station, I don't know...

A tracking shot reveals the father fiddling with his pipe. Kris' father The last day... But why send you there?
    One always feels awful after a big farewell. A sixteen months trip is quite long... And you need to do it all by yourself.
    Here comes your aunt. Here comes your aunt
    Let's meet after lunch. We need to talk Listen, Kris, let's talk about this after lunch.
  Kris Why did you have to invite this Berton today of all days? The matter is not only the Solaris station, but the limits to set for human knowledge.
  Aunt Where are the guests going to sleep? Next to you, or in the room upstairs? (shouting) So will you come for the lunch or not?!
  Kris' father (to the aunt) Upstairs, I guess... (nervously) But wait for a moment!
Kris goes out. Kris (to his father) Well, I'm off to my meeting by the swing. To decide, father, I need to go and see.
  Aunt Maybe... So what do you want me to do?
  Kris' father Just a moment. You and your room can wait! Wait!
The aunt goes off the frame Father Listen, Kris... (shouting) I just told you to wait for a moment!

back navigation
[ Top ] [ Links ] [ Bibliography ] [ Documentaries ] [ Graphics ] [ Photos ] [ Diaries/Memoirs ] [ Topics ] [ News ] [ Home ]