Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2009

Solaris (1972) and The Cube (1997)

The Cube

Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Your answer should be around 400 words. Longer answers are more than welcome. The questions are all graded individually so extra effort in preparing your answer is rewarded.

Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it. Please only send to my sympatico address as I use this for the film course so that I run less of a risk of misplacing your answers.

Feel free to include internet reference links in your answers.

The answers are due in my Inbox on the day that they are presented in class.

updated 02-Jan-2010 10:33 PM


1. Matthew Barbesin

The film often made use of reflections, both in as a cinematographic device as well as in the development of the philosophical plot development of the film. Explain.

The use of reflections in Tarkofsky’s Solaris is to insinuate the feeling of being lost and alone, to give a sense of loneliness and strangeness. The hallucinations in Solaris are creations of consciousness, from which Solaris has derived them and then materialized. The “mirror” and reflections act as a representation of this, and show us that we are all connected through personal memories, guilt, and humanity.

Hari in Solaris has to undergo a painful process of acquiring and accepting an identity, not once but three times. When she first appears she studies both a photograph of herself and her reflection in the mirror, finally accepting that “it’s me.” She seems more sure of her identity on her next return, but after watching the video with Kris and seeing her “original” self, she becomes confused once more: looking into the mirror, she says she doesn’t know herself at all: “I can’t remember.” This leads to a complex sequence of mirror shots, with both Kris and Hari and their reflections visible (implying that Kris too still has to discover his true identity), and then only their reflections left as both move off-screen. Kris’s own identity crisis, as he slips into hallucinations later, was originally to be visualized through a room totally made up of mirrors, but only a fragment of this remains in the film. This again alludes to Kris’ fragmented and fragile mental state.

In terms of plot development, one could see the film being a mirror onto itself. The last scene in the movie is almost completely the same as the first scene. We see Kris staring into a reflection of himself in the lake outside of his father's home. One can see this as a constant process of self-contemplation.



2. Stephanie Boutari

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Contrast the images or representation of water on earth to the images or representation of the Ocean of Solaris.

The different ways in which water is represented in the movie Solaris are key to the conception of the planet Solaris as an enigmatic being; in contrast to the familiarity and life-giving nature of water on earth. Both the water seen in Solaris and on earth are filmed in a slow motion, in an eerie yet beautiful manner, which helps to set a mood of contemplation and mystery with a slightly dark quality. The fact that water throughout the film is always seen moving reinforces the idea that the ocean is living, and might even have a conscious of its own in the case of Solaris's ocean. This correlates with the idea that Solaris manifests the memories of it's occupants into physical form, thus tapping into the deepness of the subconscious mind.

When the water on earth is viewed it is seen through Kris's eyes - he stares at it in contemplation, therefore it also becomes part of his mind processes and interacts with his thoughts. In contrast however, the filming of earth's water reveals the plant life beneath it, showing leaves that move in sync with the flowing water. Thus, the sense of "life" that both oceans have is different - earth's is a sensuous, pleasant sense of flourishing and nourishing life, whereas the ocean of Solaris is a life form of its own, filmed singularly without revealing any other form of life on the planet. The nature of water's movement in both planets is quite different as well. The earth's water flows and undulates in one direction - that of the wind - whereas Solaris's ocean moves in a more circular manner, almost like a whirl pool. This increases its eeriness and conveys the idea that it can pull you in, like an infinite black hole that takes complete control of you. In a sense it does 'pull' the scientists in, as they become preoccupied with their memories and one of them even commits suicide.

The water of the ocean Solaris moves less fluidly than that of earth, emphasizing to the viewer that it is not normal or familiar. The viewer cannot determine the consistency of Solaris's water - it is neither solid nor liquid, and it is unknown. As it appears more solid than regular water, it's unity reiterates the idea that it is one whole being. Lastly, each planet's water is coloured differently to portray their contrast; serving again to depict Solaris as the mysterious and unfamiliar. It's ocean in the film is not one consistent colour, but it more frequently possesses hues of oranges and yellows as opposed to the typical blues and greens of water on earth. This also makes the viewer unsure what its temperature and chemical composition might be, making it all the more unnerving to watch.


3. Laura Fenwick

The Cube uses geometry and numbers to carry the plot development. How does this support the creation of the setting? Do you think this is a device that is easily appreciated by the audience?

The Cube uses mathematical theories to carry the plot development. This first occurs when Leaven reveals herself to excel at mathematics, and after looking at the numbers on the crawlspace, theorises that when one of those numbers is prime, the room is booby trapped. This theory tends to work and the audience starts to hope that they will escape until Quentin enters a room without prime numbers and narrowly avoids death. Leavens initial theory is shown to be incorrect, further confusing the audience and making them feel again like there is no escape.

Worth is then revealed to be one of the architects who design the enormous cube-shaped shell that holds the cubes. He knows the dimensions of the shell and hence Leaven is able to work out how many rooms the shell holds (26x26x36 – 17576 rooms). This helps Leaven to theorise that the rooms could be encoded Cartesian coordinates representing the position of the rooms within the Cube. Hence, the group begins moving towards the edge, resorting back to “booting” the rooms to test their safety again. This again helps the audience to gain further hope that they will escape but there is still this idea that something has not been worked out.

Leaven then realises that rooms which have traps are not simply prime numbers but the larger set of prime powers. She then communicates that performing factorisations of three, three-digit numbers for every room they enter is near impossible without a calculator. This again plunges the audience back into despair that they will never escape until Kazan is revealed to be an autistic savant with the capacity to perform these factorisations quickly and easily. The group then realises that the rooms are moving and the numbers on the crawl space identify where the room is, how many times it moves, and where it moves to. Finally the audience sees there is a reason for each member and hopes they will escape, but ultimately it’s their basic human emotions and relationships that ultimately lead to their demise.

Note: A professor was hired to do the math for the Cube and it makes sense to the point where one could actually build the structure described in the film.



4. Li Ting (Nora) Guan

solaris solaris
The film switches back and forth from B/W to colour at varying points through the length of the entire film. Discuss this. Why is it done? What does it achieve?

The film Solaris switches back and forth from black and white to color very often to suggest an alternative reality: dreams and reality. Black and white scenes represent the dreams because man usually dream in B/W, while colored scene reflect everyday life just like what man see in this world. For example, there is a B/W scene about Kelvin burning his old paper before leaving. The papers remark his dreams and thoughts that he has kept.

The graphics in a color film always impinge on one’s perception of the events. Unlike in everyday life, one doesn’t really pay attention to color; film is played in 2D where actions and color are compressed onto one surface. Even though color scenes are more realistic shots of the world, they don’t tell the true meaning of the story. One the screen, color stands out and impresses viewer’s attention, whereas B/W film focuses only on the essence of the film. B/W made the film more true even though it represents the dreams and memory in Solaris.  Only the scenes in dreams reflect the one’s true thoughts. For example, there is a very long shot of one character driving through Tokyo. It’s like one travelling through his mind or moving through time. The director wants the audience to follow the scene without any colored distractions. Just like when one is on a car travelling fast on a highway, he/she ignore the colorful world, but start thinking and dreaming about something else in the mind. If it were film in color, audiences would be distracted by the colorful images and blinded from seeing the true meaning of scene.

Then moments when the film switches between color and B/W are very obvious. One’s attention is suddenly concentrated on that moment of specific detail. This is what the director wants to achieve. He wants the audience to feel the central “action” of real and nonreal just as the images are shown in color and B/W. For instance, soon after Kelvin wakes up from a dream of his mother, his wife leaves him. The director wants to connect the relationship between Kelvin with his mother and Kelvin with his wife. He has caused both of them misfortune and this is what leads him into a sad person. The dream reflects the true feeling in his heart: his guilt towards both of his wife and mother.



5. Matt Hartney
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There are several very distinct colour schemas used throughout Solaris. Identify and discuss their use, significance and role in the development of the architecture of the plot.

Tarkovsky’s Solaris utilizes full colour scenes in conjunction with Mondrian-esque, chromatically enhanced black and white shots to create a separation between events that take place on Earth and those events that pertain to the strange phenomena of the planet Solaris. These black and white scenes are not entirely set on Solaris, nor do all of the sequences on the remote ocean planet use this approach, but rather a change of colour scheme signals both the occurrence of an unexplainable event and the memory of such events and their effect on the characters of the film. An additional distinction between those sequences set on earth and those set in space is achieved through the use of vibrant shots of water plants, trees, and grasses, contrasting the lushness verdancy of earth with the cold desolation of space.

The first use of monochromatic black and white occurs in living room of Kelvin’s father, where Kelvin and Berton (a former cosmonaut who has visited Solaris) are viewing a tape of testimony by Berton pertaining to the strange appearance of a young child, twelve feet tall, on the surface of Solaris. A disagreement ensues and Berton leaves the house, later driving through a large metropolis with his young son.  In the long highway scene (which creates a distinct cut within the narrative of the film) a variety of colours of monochrome are used, cycling through blues and oranges when Berton is viewed in the car, and utilizing a muted colour shot with enhanced red tones when the car is viewed from elsewhere on the highway.  High contrast between black and white occurs here as well, as  long shots of driving in dark tunnels are interspersed with bright scenes when the car enters a light well, or traverses the short distance between one tunnels end and the beginning of another. Berton’s uneasy state of mind is well conveyed through the highway scene, as he stares blankly and forlornly through his front windshield, at times seemingly losing all sense of the fact that he is driving and becoming lost in thought. Berton reveals that the child he saw on the surface of Solaris was identical to the child of a fellow cosmonaut who had visited the planet. The scene ends with an aerial shot of a complicated motorway, each car appearing as a set of glowing red lights whipping along the road.

The highway scene occurs prior to Kelvin’s departure for Solaris, and offers a prelude to the way in which Tarkovsky handles other similar experiences later in the film. Scenes set on the Solaris station continue to use this technique of colourized black and white to further create a rift between physical events and events that are taking place in the mind and to bring in to question what is real and what has been imagined.



6. Michael Hasey

Compare the use of colour vs. black and white in Solaris with the use of colour in The Cube. Discuss the role of colour in The Cube with respect to the colour schemes of the various rooms of the Cube.

The use of black and white vs colour in the film Solaris is a method of adding or removing a sense of tension or comfort in the viewer, furthering this expression of change in consciousness as experienced by Kris.  The majority of the film is shot in colour and uses an almost technicolour palette to create the lush gardens around the father's house, the mysterious seas of Solaris and the wild clutter on board the space station.  Such use of varying colour brought a state of disarray and confusion to the film, mimicking the streams of strange hallucinations experienced by passengers aboard. Snaut, the former Dr. Gibarian and even Kris himself experience these hallucinations and are brought to a state of madness.  During a few key moments, the viewer is brought inside the mind of insane, for example during the interview where Burton claims that he saw a giant baby, or when Kris first accepts his delusions as reality aboard the space station.  It is at these key points that the director uses black and white as to remove this Technicolor delusion, and convinces the audience, just as the insane are convinced, that perhaps the hallucinations are real.  This is achieved as black and white removes a great deal of variety and texture from the film, giving the image a deeply routed foundation based only on geometry and grey tones.  It is this reduction that brings a sense of plausibility to scenes that would otherwise be unbelievable. 

In the Cube, the role of colour only begins to come into play when the autistic character Kazan begins to list off the various tones of the rooms.  Although these tones do not relate to traps or safe rooms, Kazan seems to be the first one to relate strong emotion to the changing colours within.  The cube is a movie about the psychological process from confusion, to desperation, to madness.  The seemingly random colours of each room within the cube reflect these various emotions and ultimate crescendo to madness. Unlike Solaris, the colours in the room do not relate to specific or consistent emotion but rather leave the viewer in suspense as to what will occur.  This colour change is one of only a few variations between the rooms, and probably the most significant.  Such variation quickly begins to help identify and spark various emotions.  For example, rooms are now being called the “red room” or the “blue rooms”, and have a certain emotion attached to them, depending on whatever event had taken place in them.  Red rooms were quickly identified with anger or violence as various confrontations occur in red rooms, but quickly enough this pattern disintegrates like any other pattern the prisoners seem to “uncover”, further promoting a sense of madness and extreme emotion.



7. Richard Kim

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Throughout the spacecraft, and particularly in the "library", the walls are covered with images of a very traditional past (paintings, etchings, drawings, photographs). What is the purpose of this? How does it relate to the development of the moral plot of the film? Contrast this to the use of patterning on the walls in The Cube.

In the movie Solaris, the characters of the future are encased in a spacecraft where the darkest desires, imaginations and memories are realized in tangible realm. They are forced to confront the emotions and morality that are now unfamiliar in the modern society then.

In the set designs of the spacecraft, we can observe the artworks, especially of Romantic period along with classical paintings, and sculptures. Especially in the room of Dr.Gibarion who died before the arrival of Kris and in the library, the work of the traditional past are scattered and covers the surfaces. Shown in a manner of being studied, remembered, in a way of interest in the exoticism, the unfamiliar values of the past period are remembered by the Solarists.

This setting is starkly contrasted with the behaviours of the Solarists. In the modern society as described in the movie, there is a heavy emphasis on gaining of scientific knowledge, information, and data- this pursuit has led the mankind to a state of anomie. In amongst this juxtaposition, the viewers delve deeper into the suppressed emotions and the hesitant social interaction that takes place. Especially in the Library scene where the longest period of social interaction takes place, the deepest desires and morals are almost unwillingly revealed and the reaction to eachother heightens the emphasis of the director’s critique on modern/ future society.

While the emphasis is created by contrast and juxtaposition in the Solaris, in the movie Cube, the set is stripped of associations and references to derive the same result. Walls, clothing, and everything in absence of context, the characters are forced to interact amongst themselves. In the reduction of narrative of reaching a common goal, exit, and the restricted clues that are often only be able to find out through interaction, the human presence are objectified. The unseen qualities of each character become the very focal point, apertures of real agenda ever so clearly focusing onto what is hidden.


8. Clayton Lent


Why the reference to Don Quixote? What is the significance of this part of the plot?

Don Quixote: a man who so obsessively delves into chivalrous literature that his reality becomes a manifestation of those stories. Born Alonso Quixote he reinvents himself as Don Quixote de la Mancha and sets out as a knight. He arrives in a foreign land, designates a lady love and labels the local environment as he will. In Solaris, particularly in the character Kelvin, we see a similar exchange between the conscious and perceived reality. The discourse is rife with allegorical reference, and thus it is only appropriate as a further reference that develops the narrative. Gustave Dore’s plates are seen first in this passing of the book, then again quickly in the periphery and then passing in front of the camera when they lose gravity.  As the Don’s reality became a manifestation of his consciousness, so do the realities of the three hapless explores.  The inter-planetary endeavor itself possesses an unworldly idealism as it flails helplessly on the planet Solaris.

Furthermore the full title of Cervante’s original work, The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha, makes reference to the quick, inventive nature of the Don, despite his apparent insanity. This characteristic is shared by Kelvin, who seems to adapt very quickly to the strange environment on Solaris. This adaptation is commented upon on numerous occasions by Dr. Snaut and Dr. Sartorius. As Dr. Snaut pulls the book from a disordered pile and hands it to Kelvin it takes on a particular significance in the dialogue between the two. Dr. Sartorius’ opinion is voiced in a more hostilemanner, as when he berates Kelvin for his ‘tryst’, but also alludes to the strange, ready manner in which Kelvin embraces Solaris. In this manner the allegorical reference foreshadows the tragic end for Kelvin. He, just as Don Quixote found sanity and was left broken, in the end longs for his home but is left broken and lost in a strange world.



9. Kevin Lisoy
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What do you assume is the supposed "date" of the action of this film? What architectural evidence is given to us to support this? How does this compare to the "evidence" given to us in The Cube to establish a time of action?

The initial scenes of the Solaris show a house that very well could be built anytime from the film’s production date (1970s) to present day (2009).  After the country house scenes, the film takes us through a long series of shots through 1970 Tokyo.  This modern city is portrayed as-is, save for the overlay of some digital audio blips.  This suggests that the action of Solaris takes place in the not-so-distant future.  The interrogation scene of Burton takes place in a very modernist room with sharp, rectilinear forms.  The endless, robust nature of this architecture contrasts with the circular, more intangible spaces in the Solaris Station, which contrasts reality (present time) with dissolution (future/venture).

Scientists at the end of film proclaim that man has explored space, but is still looking for home here on earth.  The fact that Tarkovsky uses a home setting on earth as the predominant set for Kelvin to visit makes us think of earth as a place of home.  Furthermore, it is a place of life and action, compared to the desolate, dull setting of the Solaris Station.  When Kelvin returns to the house at the end of the film, it portrays a very real loop that confirms the permanence of the house on earth as a real identifying element.

The Cube dates its setting very differently because the cube is meant to be an event that could happen at any time, anywhere.  The characters and setting in The Cube are stripped of identity, which makes it a very frightening because it could take place at any time.  Similarly, the interior shots of both the The Cube and Solaris Station prohibit the viewer from an understanding of what these architectures are, but the real, tangible form of the house in Solaris seems to be the only real thing.

10. Anne Ma

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Comment on the architectural set provided for these two major circulation spaces. Appropriate? Effective? Believable?

Despite the fact that Solaris is a film produced in the early 1970s in which the resources used to create thrilling and realistic movies today were not available, the film’s use of their present technology to present a film set in the future is very commendable. In particular, the sets used for the main circulation spaces, primarily the entrance passageway and the main corridor, procure some interesting observations in their similarities and dissimilarities as well as the set’s effect on the audience viewing the film.

The entrance passageway, in which Kris first enters to reach the main headquarters of the space station, consists of a long and narrow corridor-like space, wide enough for only one person. In terms of the physical setting, there are many devices, machinery and components that line the edge, forming the walls of the corridor. These components are most likely used as a way of portraying advanced technology of the future relative to the time period in which the film was produced. On a more psychological level, the space signifies a single route and destination with no other options to the person walking through. I was under the impression that the narrow route suggests the formation of a threshold that leads to another world or dimension. The narrow space also creates a sense of anticipation as it is difficult to see what is waiting ahead with so little to see.

Just as the entrance passage was lined with multiple gadgets, devices and machinery, the main circulation corridor also contained many devices and exposed machinery. Another important feature of these circulation routes was the use of reflective surfaces to generate more distortions and lighting manipulations; this, I presume is another way of attempting a futuristic look of the film. There exists a vast difference in shape and size between the main circulation corridor and the entrance passageway. While the entrance is narrow and confined by two perpendicular walls (of machinery), the main circulation corridor is large, open and circular both in section and pathway. The size of the space as well as the breaks and openings to other rooms allows a sense of choice to choose where to go. The sense of anticipation is still present both in the unknown around the turn of the curving passage as well as the rooms that line the edge. Finally, the use of repetitive elements in this corridor as well as the tunnel-like appearance of the corridor gave the impression of an endless passageway in which the only option of escaping is to enter one of the many rooms on the periphery.

In terms of the choices made for spatial properties of the settings (narrow, enclosed, open, circular), I think the presentation of each circulation walkway was fairly appropriate. While the entrance provided a one-way route to a unique destination, the main corridor allowed multiple routes to varied destinations.  I found the effects of the spaces architecturally to be quite successful. However, despite the time period when the film was created, I cannot say I am thoroughly convinced of the appearance of the spaces as a representation of a futuristic space station. I would imagine that with sufficient technology and comfort design considerations, the machinery and devices would not be exposed and the corridor should be a completely streamline and covered passageway. Kris’ room in this sense was much more convincing.



11. Xin (Emma) Ma

Comment on the architectural set provided for his bedroom. Refer to colour, surface treatments, shapes and the use of the space with respect to the plot development. How do the choices manipulate your perception of the space?   

The first impression of Kris Kelvin’s bedroom is impeccable whiteness and cleanliness. It is completely stripped of clutter and objects of comfort (in contrast to the library). The sparse furniture just barely providing the most basic needs, and creates a sense of alienation to indicate life in a different space and time, being sterilized for scientific research. These elements give the room a feeling of depersonalization, from the grid padded walls to the plastic sheet which he sleeps directly on. The surfaces are hard and cold, indicative of an unfamiliar setting in the future, in contrast with the rich textures found on Earth.

The room is perfect a geometry, nearly a perfect sphere with the exception of the floor. Openings of doors and windows, as well as the large video screen, all follow the contours of the wall. The intensity of the enclosure is reminiscent of an asylum. The outside is only seen through windows, and never experienced by the characters on Solaris as it is on earth. The other two human inhabitants on the station rarely enter the bedroom, and Kelvin is left alone with his thoughts with little interaction with society. The circularity of the space indicates a free flowing form, as thought and reality freely flow and mingle into each other.

In this manner, Kelvin’s bedroom becomes the space of his mind, which fosters the materialization of his thoughts. He and Hari are the only inhabitants within it, and she is a product of his imagination. Kelvin’s most intimate moments shared with his wife occur in the space of his quarters, where the walls act as a defensive shell against the other scientists aboard the station. Furthermore, Hari is first found in his room in both occasions, under the strict circumstances that he is alone and asleep, thus allowing the subconscious mind to float to the top of his consciousness.

By the end of the film, the room no longer feels strange, but rather embodies an uncanny atmosphere of familiarity. One grows accustomed to the surroundings, and the roundness feels much more like a protective cocoon. In this space, Kelvin is free to think and share with Hari without pretense or fear of judgment by society, in the complete freedom of his own mind.



12. Christopher Mosiadz

Comment on the architectural set provided for the main "public" space. Refer to colour, surface treatments, shapes and the use of the space with respect to the plot development. How do the choices manipulate your perception of the space? 

The main “public” space in the 1972 adaptation of Solaris is in a continual state of disarray throughout the progression of the film. It is portrayed as an interstitial space outside of Dr. Sartorius’ lab that is used for circulation and informal interaction. It becomes an individual entity, unclaimed by its inhabitants; a static junkspace; an embodiment of the current state of the space station – neglect – and the preoccupation with outer space (in the physical realm) and inner space (in the subconscious realm).

The space itself is circular with a perceived endlessness, adding to the sense of disorientation and the psychological aspect of not knowing what is beyond. It is brightly lit by large circular windows, painted white and houses a series of objects scattered randomly on the floor. Rectangular cases with reflective cladding, cables, ropes, among other things, lie uninterrupted and are only but minimal obstructions in the day-to-day lives of the crew. Although ostensibly static, Tarkovsky deliberately reveals subtle changes in both their placement and the cameras point of view as the plot develops. We begin to notice a greater accumulation of objects, not because they did not exist in the beginning, but rather, more of the space is revealed whenever subsequent action takes place within its confines.

This main “public” space initially gains its significance as the first place that Kris experiences transition from night to day. The scene where the camera zooms through the window into the dark night sky and then back into the space station signifies his first subconscious contact with Solaris. Immediately after this scene he witnesses a lady walking through the space station, foreshadowing his meeting with Hari the next morning. Also, the first group meeting where Sartorius invites everyone is held in this main space, supporting the theme of contemplation in which a discourse of moral issues are put to question.

As a stark contrast to the order and cleanliness of the circular bedrooms, the main space becomes this ambiguous corridor, an individual entity, unclaimed by its inhabitants…



13. Tyler Murray

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Fire seems to be used as an underlying connective device througout the film. Explain. What is the significance of the use of fire on the spacecraft? Is it believable?

Fire is used in one of the introductory scenes with the protagonist it is here that he is burning his research and thesis papers.  He is burning all his memories of the past except one, a home video of him as a child with his family at that very same camp fire.  Thus, the fire takes on a significance as a force that provides strong mnemonic link.  Although the fire is capable of removing the worldly articles themselves the memory of those things lives on within Kelvin and is now tied to the element of fire.  There are a number of instances of fire while on the ship the first being upon the introduction to Shnaut, Shnaut lights a cigarette and than immediately puts it out as if he no longer smokes, or that perhaps he has not smoked in so long that the tobacco (or otherwise) has gone bad, in either scenario the introduction of a person from earth is a reminder of the past and here we see the flame.  This introduction to fire aboard the spacecraft alludes to its later significance.  There is a scene fairly early on in the spacecraft where Kelvin tries to get rid of Hedi in a rocket and in doing so is set on fire from the rockets exhaust flames, here again fire is the means by which Kelvin attempts to eliminate his memories but is equally affected by the flames themselves.  By getting rid of the one memory he is endowed with a lasting memory of the occasion in his burnt clothes and wounds.  These scenes preclude Kelvin’s showing of his home movie to Hedi and so perhaps they can be considered as the directors attempt to establish fire as something with more symbolism.  One can assume that the being of Solaris would be able to have known everything from Kelvin’s home video prior to the watching of the movie (as it created the reproduction of Hedi)  but none the less the being has proved imperfect but with the ability to learn, as such the viewing of this film informs the being of Kelvin’s strong mnemonic ties to fire.  The being later begins to link the two memories together and introduces Hedi with candles in the meeting with Shnaut and Saptorious.  The being again however produces a deja vu moment when after leaving the room with the candles knocked over Kelvin returns to find them upright again next to a quite relaxed cigarette smoking Hedi.   These candles remain lit until the end of this scene as the two lie together until the candles are melted and they are floating around weightless.  As for whether or not the fire on the spacecraft is believable,  I make the stand that scientifically sure it is believable because fire requires oxygen to burn and they are able to walk around without any oxygen supplying apparatus.  However in terms of whether the fire is real in the sense of was it something created outside of the Solaris being, no.  The being materialized the candles and this is reinforced by a cut scene from the candles to the home video with a focus on the campfire.



14. Brian Muthaliff

Compare the specific/purpose built sets of Solaris and The Cube to the site filming for The Shining. Did you find one or the other more effective at modifying or supporting reality as explained for each of the films?

Solaris the film is set in a space ship orbiting solaris. The Scene itself is completely internal and for most of the movie, detached from any sort of reality. The viewer is reminded ever so often, that this ship is orbiting a transient globe, with glimpses through the circular windows and bright glares at peak times during the day. The ship itself iconic of what we conceive space ships to look like internally. Scenes from other great space films have helped the viewers become familiar with what one might be. A part from some exterior Computer Graphic generated shot, the viewer is left with few things to believe that the ship is in space.

The scenes in The Cube are also completely internalized. In fact, the enter movie was filmed in two cubes and multiplied through the magic of film, to give the illusion of the away that makes “The Cube”. This thing can exist anywhere, and at anytime and the white light revealed at the end of the movie does little to tell the viewers where this thing is situated. But none of that matters, because the story exists within the cube. Once again the viewers are only given a small amount of information and are forced to believe in the scenes with the information at hand.

The Scene in the Shining however, goes beyond the concepts presented above. What makes the setting in the Shining so effective, more so than the other films, is that it isn’t just one setting, but a compilation of different settings. There is the road to the Shining, the aerial views of the hotel, the maze and the interior shots of the hotel, all filmed in different locations, but compiled to reveal a believable setting.

While all films do manipulate reality through setting, I believe that The Shining does it most effectively because there are relations between scenes that assume preconceived notions from the viewers, and plays on those notions to situate the plot of the story.



15. Adam Schwartzentruber
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Very little of the film gives us a view of "space" or the spacecraft or space travel from the exterior. Why do you think this is so? Does this help or hurt the film?

The fact that the exterior of the spacecraft and the surrounding space such as the sea are not shown very much, aids by allowing the imagination of the viewer to take hold and create their own assumptions about what lies beyond the interior of the spaces. In this way it suits everyone’s assumptions of the future at once while reducing the budget necessary and increasing the focus on the interior action of the film.

I think this helps the film tremendously, the mind is a powerful tool, and by allowing us (the viewer) to construct our own ideas and assumptions about the exterior of the space we are drawn further into the environment of the film. Showing us more of the exterior of the spacecraft may not have allowed such an imagination to take root, making the spacecraft too real and perhaps not to the liking of the viewer. Short instances where the viewer sees the exterior are usually vague representations, such as the views of the sea, which do not allow the viewers disbelief to take root in the image itself. The short and very little attention paid to the exterior helps us (the viewers) imagine it with a much higher intensity than possible to demonstrate in film.

There is always a risk taken when representing the future in which the representation is not enough for the viewer and so is rejected as plausible which does not allow the viewer to suspend their disbelief in a setting in order to engage the actual content of the film. This leads me to believe that by not showing the exterior of the spacecraft much at all, this crisis has been averted and allows the viewer to engage the material presented to them.

Another possibility and or reason for not showing an exterior is budget. Highly foreign and complex objects such as spacecraft are expensive to produce and replicate in an era where computer aided set design was limited and thus there is an expense benefit to reducing the attention and focus paid to the exterior space.



16. Sam Sutherland

Refering to the question above (15) why do you think we have no exterior views of The Cube? How does this feed into the manipulation of the presentation of the architecture of the film?

My first response to this question is that the reason we have no exterior views of the Cube is because the film is a low-budget production. The film appears to have been shot almost entirely in a single room, after all! However, if the low-budget matter was a factor in the decision whether or not to show the Cube’s exterior, it was probably a subconscious factor, since the lack of views of the Cube’s exterior heightens the mystery and fear in which the Cube is wrapped. It also serves to indicate that the characters’ suppositions about the Cube may in fact be completely incorrect, just as Leaven incorrectly decided on which room numbers indicated the presence of death traps. If we saw the Cube’s exterior and location, whether it’s in the Mojave Desert or floating in space, we would be able to relate to it a little more, and the Cube is not something that the filmmakers want the viewers to be able to relate to. The viewers should be just as alienated by the Cube as the characters are. It is implied that Kazan, the only member of the group to escape the Cube, may in fact learn the truth about it, and the divine light which envelopes him as he steps away from the bridge may be anything from the throne room of Heaven itself, to the experimentation laboratory of the Roswell Greys, or the camera lights on the set of the Cube Survivors game show.

The unknown size of the Cube allows the minimal set to become a unit of an infinite architectural field, something which probably does not exist in reality. The mind (or at least my mind) literally rebels against attempting to comprehend such an architecture. Thousands and thousands of identical rooms piled in a Cartesian grid, each one separated by a single identical hatch! That concept is so foreign to normal human experience that it boggles the mind. If there ever was an architecture that could drive people crazy, this is it. The complete alien-ness of this environment allows the minimal set of at least three rooms (two beside each other, and one on top of another) to become completely affective.



17. Joon Yang

solaris solaris
There does not seem to be much development of the role of the "computer" in this film. The most technology we see is evidenced in the video transmission. Discuss this. How does it help, hinder or place the film in a timeframe.

In Solaris, very little evidence of high-tech equipment is shown, including absence of any computer and internet technology. This contributes to portraying the intended time frame. It is the time where technology is only slightly advanced than today. This means that the ‘idea’ of futuristic lifestyle imagined today is available, however the ways of achieving such ideas, the apparatus and machine involved is still not drastically different from today. Then a question would arise in viewer’s mind. ‘How is it possible, to achieve all those futuristic lifestyle with apparatus used today?’ However eliminating computer puts out such questions, by deciding not to deal with the most integral basis of technology - computer - in the film.

For an instance, the vague idea imagination today of being able to live in space is possible in the film. However technology and tools used on that spaceship, is ordinary in even in today‘s standards. The difference of these objects comes with the aesthetics and visual design aspects of it, but the technological aspects is not anything new. In fact, the transportation such as rocket is more of an old-fashioned model. There is no smoothness or fanciness when it lifts up from the platform. It is chunky, has rough take-off with big fire combustion. Similarly, much of furniture seen in some of the rooms are either classical, or white and clean minimalist style. Either styles can easily be constructed today.

All of these aspects constitute the depiction of idea and atmosphere of near future. The absence of computer technology is important in achieving such idea. In portraying the idea of near future living environment, the director chooses not to show the scientific, ‘how it is done’ part. Eliminating computers does this effectively by eliminating more technological aspects. In this manner Solaris distinguishes itself from SF films such as Star Wars. Other SF films often signify the scientific, technological tools through CG models and detail shots. Depictions on details of spaceship, fancy machines involved, its delicate operational systems become important to show that it is a far-away future. Everything used in that time frame is unseen today. However, such depiction is not a focus in Solaris. It instead focuses on human interactions that occur in a specific setting on a space craft. Therefore in Solaris, the time frame of near future becomes important only in establishing such settings - isolated place with mysterious phenomena and research scientists- and the science and technological apparatus themselves is put out of focus by eliminating computer. It successfully leaves out ‘how it is done’ part out of question, and places film on its intended setting and time in near future.


18. Ryan Yeung

Compare the role of (graphic) violence in The Cube, Solaris and The Shining. How does the nature of the violence in each film work with (or not) the choice of architectural setting and plot.

The three films are inherently similar in terms of setting and atmosphere. Specifically, it is the theme of confinement that drives each setting and creates the atmosphere of mysteriousness, and eventually madness. This madness is linked with the role of violence in The Cube, Solaris, and The Shining. The use of violence was inevitable, though, unlike modern day horror movies that glorify gore, these films focus more on the psychological aspect as a thriller. Surprisingly, violence (specifically gore and blood) are limited in screen-time, instead, the thrills come from the intense atmosphere created.

In comparing the role of violence in these three films, we must first distinguish what violence is. Violence as physical injuries is portrayed in The Cube through the variety of bloody traps throughout the maze, or in The Shining when Jack Torrance murders the chef, Dick Hallorann. There is also the definition of violent behaviour such as Quentin’s treatment and attitude towards some of his fellow inmates in the Cube, or Jack Torrance’s behaviour and madness towards his family.

In terms of graphic violence, the Cube is the most distinguished, with multiple counts of blood and gore through the traps in the individual cubes. We are reminded of the memorable opening scene when “Alderson” is diced into small cubes immediately after stepping into a cube. On the other hand, The Shining focuses more on the psychological terror of Jack’s madness within the hotel and less on the graphical violence that might have happened if Jack murdered his family. Perhaps the most different from these films is Solaris. Whereas the Cube and the Shining focus on murder and survival, Solaris focuses on the mysteriousness of the strange planet and the question of life comes into play. There are no motives of murder however, making this a different breed of film than the other two. The scenes of graphical violence are that of Hari trying to escape from Kris’ room, or when she tries to kill herself through inhaling liquid oxygen. She instantly recovers from both situations, diverting the attention away from the idea of death.

As mentioned before, the nature of violence is inherent in the plot of madness and confinement in their architectural setting in the films, The Cube and The Shining. The Cube, very simple in architecture, is very compact and tight, and is successful in portraying the transition into madness by Quentin. The nature of violence is inherent in the traps of the setting. On the other hand, the Shining transforms a regular building typology, the hotel, into a place of confinement. Through plot devices and atmosphere, the violent behaviour of Jack Torrance becomes natural. Solaris, however, diminishes the use of violence in comparison to the other two films. Injuries are nothing for Hari, as she is a body of memory created by Solaris. In the end, the use of violence is appropriate in each of the three films.



19. Giovanni Comi

solaris solaris
Windows play a key role in the sense of time in the film. Apertures are typically round. Discuss their role in the film.

In the Andrei Tarkovsky's movie, Solaris, windows are very important for two main reasons.

About the relationship between windows and time.

First of all, on the space station where the psychologist Kris Kelvin lives with other two scientists, window is the only way given to characters (and to audience) to understand time passing. Looking trough the window we can see the passage from day to night. However, I think that this passage from the darkness of the space (the first time Kris enters his room) to the light of the last scenes reflects also  human behaviour, human consciousness. As a matter of fact, according to the director, it is useless studying and understanding the space if we don't understand ourselves, first. In this sense we can say that windows are the main point of view on our subconscious. As a mirror of our subconcious, the only possibility to look at the Ocean, is to become more familiar with our conscience. Indeed, Thinking Ocean is a mirror that reflects memories, and unconscious desires, bad or good.

All creatures living with three cosmonauts are just characters' memories, projected from their minds on the surface of the planet, and from there reflected, materialized inside the space station. Thanks to that Solaris drags all the characters to an head to head with their experiences, with choices taken during their life.

About the shape of windows.

Windows are round as everything on the space station. Halls, corridors, rooms, even furnitures are round, as we can see, looking Kelvin's room. All this circular spaces, coming one after the other, provide a sense of disorientation, and are very appropriate to show that the satellite is the last destination for human knowledge. According to me, as in all these places, the circular shape of apertures refers to different themes: regeneration, infinity, immortality. It refers to circularity of life, eternity. In this game of mirrors that reflect everything, architecture reflects the circular idea of Solaris' time.

Time on Earth is linear, there is a beginning and there is an end, the death. Although the movie sets in the future, Kelvin's father's house is a normal building with pitched roof, and squared windows. This kind of building can be compared with the spinning satellite  around Solaris.

The movie itself is circular. As a matter of fact, at the end, after Kelvin's brainwaves have been broadcast at Solaris, an island has begun forming on its surface. So, in the final sequence, Kelvin seems to be back at his father and at his home. However, the field house is just a creation of his thoughts. At the end we realize that Earth istelf is part of Solaris, that it exists because it's thought by someone.



20. Miklos Csonti

Openings play a large part in the scene to scene transitions in The Cube. Compare this aspect of the film to the use of openings/threshold in both Solaris and The Shining.

The common effect achieved by the careful integration of openings/thresholds within the cinematography of all three films is the manifestation of the characters’ emotions within the audience.  The method used to establish this effect however is unique to each film.

In ‘The Cube’, the scene-to-scene transitions involving the crossing of a threshold is usually accompanied by a strong feeling of uncertainty.  The plot itself unfolds through these transitions as the characters continuously discover the environments that exist on the other side of the neighbouring cube.  The most menacing attribute in these sequences however, is the positioning of the camera.  As the doors are opened, the point of view of the audience frequently changes from an immersed position experienced by the characters to immediately being placed in the next room, staring back at them as they analyse the new environment.  This sudden change in perspective reinforces the concern of one of the characters when he says, “take a close look at this thing, because I have a feeling it’s looking at us.”  Well during these shots it definitely seems like he’s right; and we’re getting a first-person view experienced by the ‘it’.

Thresholds play a large part in ‘Solaris’ as well, however their contributions to the atmosphere of the film are not a result of their integration into the scene-to-scene transitions.  Rather, they act as static elements that reinforce the feeling of severe isolation experienced by the characters on the space station.  These elements, more specifically, are the windows of the space station that separate the inside from the outside, yet provide a visual link.  Although it is understood that the characters can look out the windows and see the ocean of Solaris, the point of view given to the audience lends a very different experience since the openings only appear as either completely black during the night, or complete saturated with light during the day.  The presence of these openings, along with their inability to communicate external conditions beyond night or day, establish a claustrophobic environment for the audience in order to give them a better understanding of the mental disorientation and isolation experienced by the main character.

In ‘The Shining’, thresholds play an explicitly fear inducing role since they are the mediators between hostile and safe environments.  More fear inducing still, is when the hostile environment physically invades the safe environment, as is the case when Jack is hacking away at the door of the bathroom with his axe.  During this sequence the door is filmed from the inside of the designated ‘safe’ bathroom, where it’s being chopped down bit by bit, only to see more and more of the ‘hostile’ environment on the other side. Finally, Jack sticks his head through the threshold and menacingly delivers his infamous line…”Here’s Johnny!”



21. Joel DiGiacomo

solaris solaris

Two views of the house and the water. Explain the significance. Compare this to the end of The Cube.

The film seems to deal largely with two main themes: our inability to understand ourselves, and our inability to understand the Universe. In this light, Tarkovsky’s favourite motif —using water to represent the unknown— is quite successful in these two shots. The first is a subjective ground–level shot that deals with the first theme: it is a world that is familiar to Kelvin, that was created for him by Solaris entirely as the product of his inner being. It is centered by a small, still, murky lake that seems to suggests the realm of his subconscious, or of that which he has yet to come to terms with. The second shot is more objective, and deals with the second theme. Here we see Kelvin’s island surrounded by the expansive Solaris ocean, a vast expanse of everything that is mysterious, that is beyond human understanding. The scientists in the film have gravely struggled with their attempts to understand both Solaris and themselves from the confines of their isolated physical environment. Tired and frustrated, they seek an escape. Kris finds his by looking inward, rather than out. He immerses himself completely in the great unknown, yet doesn’t face it, finding solace instead in the shadows of his dearest memories.

The end of The Cube shows a similar venture into complete uncertainty —in this case pure white light taking the place of the vast ocean— following a struggle to escape the confines of a complex that defied understanding.



22. Alejandro Fernandez

Compare the use of sound and music in Solaris and The Cube. How does each feed into the isolated, even desperate, character of their respective spaces?

Both Solaris and The Cube use minimal soundtracks and rely on raw environmental sounds to create an environment of isolation and desperation.

In The Cube, directed by Vincenzo Natali, footsteps, the harsh closing and opening of doors, wispy windy echoes help tell the story of five strangers who find themselves trapped in a prison.  Solaris too uses ambient sounds and carefully selected music to depict the inner world of the characters.  Both films share in common the prevailing presence of a humming external sound that reminds the viewer of the isolated of The Cube and the spacecraft.  Desperation is exasperated not only by the dire situation in which the characters of The Cube find themselves but also in the stressful cries, howls, and compulsive hand flapping of Kazan.  This reaches a cathartic moment when Quentin tells Kazan to shut up after he has injured his leg with the ‘wire twist trap’ or the “Sushi Machine”1 .  Sometimes the absence of sound makes the experience more nerve-wracking for the viewer.  For example, when the characters descend into a questionable cube, the nerve of potential danger is struck by the sheer absence of sound.  Here the absence of sound is an invitation for the sudden and unexpected interruption of a horrifying occurrence.  Despite the ambient sounds, The Cube does have a complete soundtrack by Canadian composer Mark Korven which appeared for sale on Itunes in 2008 with five original tracks: Why Are We Here?, The Rope, Prime Numbers, Wrong Door, and Escape.  The Soundtrack even includes breathy voices that fade in and out of the layered array of chilling sound effects and instruments.

In Solaris, the silence and use of minimal sound is used to get the audience to empathize with the loneliness of the central character.  In fact, initially the director Andrei Tarkovsky did not want music in his film2   Tarkovsky was interested in depicting the inner lives of the characters  and not merely creating science fiction film .3  There are two principle sources of music in Solaris.  Both a chorale prelude for organ titled "Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”, which is played four times, and an electronic score by composer Eduard Artemyev are featured in the film.4   As in The Cube, ambient and environmental sounds are emphasized.  But, where The Cube takes place exclusively in an isolated environment Tarkovsky juxtaposes the harsh environment of the spacecraft with warm earthly scenes of Kris’s family’s cottage.  The first scene is curiously silent, for example, but later in the film the scenes become a much-desired relief. In Solaris, another reference to the harmony and gentleness of nature occurs on a scene inside the spacecraft when Kraus shows Kris an invention for simulating the sound of leaves rustling in the wind: strips of paper taped to air vents.  The deigetic5 music played from the home video that Kris shows Hari is one of the few moments of warmness conveyed through the organ based music against the vibrant fall landscapes. 

Thus, the soundtracks of both films serve to emphasize the isolation and mental anguish of the characters.  But where The Cube, uses music and sound to depict a single terrifying environment Solaris uses music to contrast the isolation of the spaceship with the warm and gentle humanity of earth.

3 Tarkovsky, Andrei. Voyage in Time. [DVD]. Facets.

5 or source music which is music that has a logical source within the narrative of the film, such as a radio. From Roger Hickman’s “Reel Music: Exploring 100 Years of Film Music”.



23. Tania Fuizie

Solaris, The Cube and The Shining are all "dark" films. Compare/contrast the use of architecture in each of the films as it supports the development of the uneasy environment.

All the three films the cube, the shining and Solaris are dark films in which there is always a collective sense of uncertainty. They explore the dark side of the human psyche and the violent nature of the human beings. In transferring that sentiment, the places used for the main scenes, play a significant role. In all of the three, the sets do not have much of variety.  The shining is happening in the hotel, the cube is all about the cube mazes and the Solaris is mostly focused in the station. And each of these places is chosen for the intention of the uncomfortable situation.

The shining – The major part of the film which delivers the sense of suspense and uneasiness occurs within different sections inside of the hotel.  The chosen plots play a significant role in communicating the sense of fear, vagueness and trouble in almost all shots. Scenes shot in long and narrow corridors give a general feeling of unawareness as one is always uncertain as to the happenings at the either ends of the corridors. The symmetric patterns in the corridors such as the wallpaper and carpet patterns also work to accentuate this feeling. The other kind of space used in the film to deliver the suspense is huge open halls with high ceilings. The sheer volume of such spaces communicates a sense of uncertainty and a lack of safety.

The Cube – The great thing about the use of architecture in this film is that the entire movie happens in a cube that has been relatively inexpensive but at the same time very influential. The simplicity of the cube is memorable and very effective in passing anxiety on to the viewers. In the 90 minute sequence of shots we do not see but a cube and yet in each scene there is unique atmosphere of trouble visible in the air.

The Solaris – The main sequence of events in The Solaris occur within the station. The film passes the sense of discomfort by the unnatural and unfamiliar design of the rooms and public spaces in the station. The areas are bland and boringly white to deliver a feeling of coldness and senseless environment. The overwhelming circular shape of rooms, corridors, windows and objects are to communicate instability. The design of space is meant to be purely utilitarian and machine-like in contrast to ordinary and familiar everyday life. This point is clearly noticeable as the library, the antithesis space with a familiar everyday design, is the single place of refuge for the people on board to get comfort.  Rather than the station, the other plots are also chosen carefully for adding to the impression of discomfort and uncertainty. The Solaris itself is nothing but a massive surface of a liquid called the ocean which there is no knowledge of what lays underneath. The house of Kris’s parents, where the opening and closing shots are directed to, is also located in a deserted land where nothing but the family house is visible in the wild and abandoned nature.



24. John Lee

Compare the choice of predominant geometry in Solaris (circle) versus The Cube (cubic). How does the geometrical choice impact the manipulation of the reality of the film environments.

The cube and the circle are both elemental forms, but while the cube is mathematical, rigorous, and ultimately finite, the circle is mysterious, eternal, and infinite. A cube is terrestrial; a circle, however, is divine.

For instance, in Vincenzo Natali’s The Cube, the characters are daunted by the relentless complexity of their prison, eventually calculating that there are 17,576 rooms within the Cube .6 However, they soon realize that the Cube has definite limits and rules; once they discover that the numbers indicate the cartesian coordinates of a room, reveal their movements, and betrays hidden traps, it is only a matter of time before they find the “bridge” room. The “reality” of The Cube is not so much manipulated, but rather, permutated. The cube, despite its complexity, is finite, and within our understanding.

The circle, on the other hand, is a symbol of divinity— not only in Christianity, but across many cultures, including Buddhism. This ring of light could be traced to the ancient Greeks’ worship of Helios, the sun-god, and his radiant crown, which was widely imitated by Hellenistic rulers and even the Statue of Liberty .7

Therefore, Solaris, a mysterious planet, is a metaphor for the divine and supernatural (even alluding to the sun etymologically), refusing to be subjected to terrestrial observation or study. The scientists attempt to understand its phenomena are futile, even dangerous; indeed, Solaris suggests that their mission is a Faustian folly. A legendary figure, Faust became frustrated by human limits of knowledge and power and — in Goethe’s interpretation — sold his soul to the Devil, believing he would never attain the ‘zenith’ of human happiness (the point at which he would die instantly and lose his soul) .8

The Faustian tragedy is heightened by the contrast between the zealous Sartorius and the practical Snaut. On his birthday, Snaut calls for a party in the library, sardonically noting that “at least there are no windows in there.” He understands the folly of wanting knowledge that once cannot have, and instead advocates introspection; “we don’t need other worlds,” he says. “We need mirrors […] the happiest people are those who aren’t interested in cursed questions.” Furthermore, immediately after Hari is resurrected from her failed suicide, Snaut completes a maddening circuit around the perimeter of the space station, symbolizing the futility of their attempts to decipher Solaris — neither time nor space is straightforward or linear. This contrasts the linear journey in The Cube, in which the destination in inevitable.

Ultimately, the geometry of both films contrasts the instability and vulnerability of human emotions, but differ in scope and meaning. In The Cube, Quentin is revealed to be more dangerous than the easily-tamed Cube itself, and in Solaris, Kelvin quixotically opts for Solaris’ false reality over real life. However, the tension in Solaris is a result of disparity between our terrestrial understanding and our divine aspirations; on the other hand, the tension in The Cube is completely within the construct of a mathematical device.



25. Raja Moussaoui

Compare the sense of isolation conveyed by the architecture of Solaris vs The Cube vs The Shining.

It is interesting to compare the architecture of Solaris vs The Cube vs The Shining since all three have specific characteristics in common and contrast; however each film conveys the same sense of isolation.

The Shining is set in a large, grand hotel which has numerous rooms with large corridors, many passageways and high ceilings in most spaces. The building is intended to be used by hundreds of people at the same time, so there is an immediate feeling of isolation when we see that there are only three people surrounded by seemingly endless space. In addition to the vastness of the hotel, there is the vastness of the landscape outside. The sense of isolation is quite intense since it feels as though the characters have been abandoned, which in turn inspires a feeling of fear. The large scale of the nearly empty hotel spaces and the completely deserted surrounding context serve to amplify the complete isolation of the family from the rest of civilization.

Similarly, the architecture of Solaris is also large in scale with numerous corridors and passageways which are primarily empty. In this case, as with the Shining, there is a distinct sense of abandonment. This is understood through the deterioration and apparent neglect of sections of the building. However, the true sense of isolation in Solaris comes through most strongly when the characters look out of the window and see only the vastness of the sky beyond. This vastness, like the winter forest landscape in the Shining, is rendered extremely beautiful, but this beauty carries a strong sense of desolation. These pristine settings are only made possible by the lack of human presence, which of course, emphasizes the feeling of isolation.

In contrast, the architecture in The Cube uses a very different technique in order to achieve a sense of isolation. The spaces in this film are very confined. This sensation is emphasized by the wide angled shots that are employed by the director due to the size constraints of each ‘cube’ that the characters move through. What causes the sense of isolation in the case of The Cube is the endless repetition of identical geometries in the architecture. Instead of employing large space and landscapes, The Cube convinces the characters and the audience that the repetition of the same spaces and the containment of the ‘cubes’ was never ending, and that the characters will never reach civilization. Also, the strict geometries of the ‘cube’ spaces is so machine-like; so set apart from normal human spaces of comfort and familiarity, that the character’s  isolation from civilization is emphasized. This method is also employed in the geometric architecture of Solaris.

Each of the respective films shares specific architectural qualities with one another in order to achieve in sense of isolation. They each use a different combination of these qualities in order to achieve the feeling of isolation within the context of the each individual narrative.



26. Holly Young

What changes would be necessary to translate Solaris and The Cube into live theatre? Talk about the types of sets required and what modifications (if any) would be required to the conveyance of the plot of the film.


cubeI believe Vincenzo Natali’s Cube could successfully be translated into live theatre with a few minor changes.  When I first visualized the set for this piece, I thought a matrix of several cubes fitted together on a large stage would be best, as the scenes where characters interact with one another from adjoining cubes could be easily translated, and the transitions when the group moves between cubes would be quick and straightforward.  However, upon further reflection, I felt that a matrix of cubes would suggest boundaries and edges, and a good deal of Cube’s atmosphere is created through not knowing how many cubes there are, and the anxious feeling that they might go on forever.  Therefore, a single cube which changes colour to symbolically represent all the different cubes that the individuals travel through would be a better strategy, evoking the same feelings of anxiety and hopelessness that exist in the movie.  Furthermore, this option also helps solve the problem of the special effects that exist in the movie that would be nearly impossible to replicate on the stage.  Instead of showing the trapped cubes, the actors that experience the traps could leave the cube that the main group of characters is in, and come back (or disappear) after having been injured by the traps offstage.  The sense of mystery and fear of the unknown experienced by the audience will only serve to further the intended mood and themes of the original film.  Finally, the last scene, in which the exit to the cube is revealed, lighting – much like that used in the film – could be employed to suggest a difference in the environment exterior to the cube.


solarisThe 1972 film, Solaris, by Andrei Tarkovsky, would be trickier to translate into live theatre than Natali’s Cube.  For instance, the opening scenes show an immersion in nature hard to replicate anywhere but in the natural environment itself.  These lingering shots lovingly depict earth’s scenery for two reasons: first, for its nostalgic qualities (which are used to introduce the sad, contemplative state of the film’s protagonist), and second, to create a connection between the audience and the natural world (used as a mental reference later to emphasize the alien quality of the space station’s environment).  A set designed to evoke the same feelings would need to incorporate many realistic-looking trees, plants and ground cover (i.e., in an autumn setting leaves could be strewn on the ground) in order to establish a similar immersion in the natural environment.  Audio recorded outdoors would also be helpful in creating such a setting.

solarisThe film’s transition between the earth’s natural scenery and the isolated, modern quality of the space station orbiting Solaris consists of footage shot on highways during a character’s drive back to the city from the country.  I believe this same sort of transition could also be used in live theatre.  A translucent white screen could be lowered in front on the set and the driving scenes could be projected onto it while the stage hands change the previously natural setting to the sets required to create the space environment.  This would provide ample time for the most involved set change required for the story’s plot, and remain true to the spirit of the film.

solarisLater scenes aboard the space station are intentionally removed from the reality we experience on earth.  Modern, curved set pieces in white and other bright colours incorporating built-in technology can be used to produce an effective foil for the earlier nature scenes and inspire an atmosphere of removal and isolation.  To further the experience, as in the movie, broken machinery, used equipment and old papers could be strewn about the stage, creating the impression that the space has been recently deserted.  Scenes which highlight the plasma ocean on Solaris would be difficult to translate, therefore a water-like, rippled lighting effect on the scene’s backdrop and the faces of the actors may be the best way to convey its raw power and sway over the space station’s inhabitants.



27. Ashley Wood

Both Solaris and The Cube have limited casts. How does this feed into the character of the film with respect to the plot development and sense of isolation, in spite of their quite different settings (space vs earth).

An important aspect of the two Films, The Cube and Solaris, is the foster of isolation. This sense begins to feed the mystery and plot development of questions which attempt to understand the who, why and how of the occurrences around them. These questions plague the inner consciences of the characters instilling fear, unwanted memory and trauma.

In spite of the contrasting locations, space and earth, Natali and Tarkovsky feed the isolation through a similar tangible connections with our own conscience, abilities and lives. The actual placement of these scenarios only defines the psychology due to the characters boundaries from civilization. The Cube illustrates this by the matrix which bridges the outside world and similarly the space station bridges the outside world in Solaris.

The Cuba enters the viewer into a paranoia as to who could be behind such a machine of this mass and abstraction. Quentin and Dr. Holloway debate at length as to the number of possibilities but it is not until Worth divulges the headlessness of the cube and it operations under an illusionary plan, that these connections become fractured and reveal the disconnection and isolation from anyone.     
Solaris and The Cube also present the psychological distance and vulnerability that the human mind can feel in situation of impossibility. Kris Kelvin in Solaris enters the film with a somewhat weak and nondescript personality however once he is faced with the simulacrum of his dead wife Hari begins to reveal his stronger personality traits.



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