The future in Solaris is a planet in space that is almost a conscious entity. A cosmonaut lands on a space station, and it is on a planet that can intuit and provide anything that a human might desire. In Kubrick's film, the computer comes close to conscious thought, when the sophisticated HAL turns on its human masters.
In this way, they share a similar idea about the possibility that another entity can act like a human; either by understanding human desire or coming near to human consciousness. However, although they were made around the same time, one is very much a Russian vision and the other is based on Western understanding. The computer is an enemy in 2001, and represents the negative potential of technological advance. But there is still optimism - the constant possibility that a human can be victorious over the super- computer. And of course it's very positive to say God exists.
The atmosphere in Solaris is more depressive. You can feel how responsive the film is to attitudes around the start of the Seventies in Communist Russia; here is the suspicion, the lack of answers, and little hope.
Kubrick's 2001 has the most brilliant cut in the history of cinema. It is the celebrated shot at the start of the film, when the monkey-man, who is holding a bone, is cut to the visually spectacular spaceship. It is the most brilliant and impressive scene in film history.
My favourite part of Solaris is towards the end, when the shot goes down through the sky and lands on earth, and we see the cosmonaut's father waiting for his return.
These films are very important to me as a director, and Out of the Present intends to have an extended dialogue with both films. This is evident in both subtle and very obvious references. For instance, I have used real footage from the MIR space station combined with the space station in 2001. And to make sure that the reference is immediately recognised, I use the famous music from 2001. My references to Solaris are more subtle, and there are many secret echoes.
These are the two most important films I have ever seen. I watch them periodically, and at least five or six times over the last 20 years. Although they are equally stunning, how I feel about them very much depends on a time and place. For instance, I saw Solaris last year. Because it is such an enigmatic film and set at the end of the century, it was perfect. But I am sure at the start of the next century, 2001 will seem just as pertinent.