« All Publicity is Good Publicity | Main | Heist Movies »

October 12, 2003

Soderbergh's Solaris

I've delayed watching Steven Soderbergh's Solaris (IMDB) for a few months because I had originally planned to revisit both Stanislaw Lem's novel and Andrei Tarkovsky's haunting film, but I decided to watch it tonight. Like Steven Shaviro, I enjoyed the film's ability to create a contemplative, claustrophobic atmosphere, with its dark lightling and use of blues and grays and its slow pacing. I'm not familiar enough with the earlier versions of Solaris, but I think Shaviro's description seems about right. I was also disappointed by Soderbergh's ultimate affirmation that "love conquers all," reflected in both the film's conclusion and the repeated reference to Kelvin's (George Clooney) favorite line of poetry.

The film opens with an interesting sequence focusing on Kelvin at work on earth as a pstchiatrist. Despite the prominent use of earth tones (brown and yellows), there is a certain sense of decay or decline, partially reflected by the rundown spaces where we sometimes see Kelvin. Kelvin is running a group counseling session involving a married couple, and their responses to the various artifacts or souvenirs of their relationship diverge completely, suggesting an inability to relate to or know the other person. These scenes initially seem detached from the rest of the film, but they ultimately reflect on Kelvin's relationship to his dead wife Rheya.

After staying out a bit late last night, I'm not sure that I can really develop a clear reading of the film. I liked the use of the flat, almost immaterial "screens" used for communication in several key scenes--they helped to reinforce the overall coldness of the film. I do think Sodebergh was picking up on some of the interesting strands from the original text regarding the limitations of human memory, especially in the sequence in which Kelvin is confronted with the flaws in his memory of his dead wife, Rheya. Significantly, this memory "problem" is situated around a single photgraph of Rheya that Kelvin has prominently displayed on his refrigerator door, calling attention to the ways in which photographs capture partial, fleeting images, rather than providing us with complete experiences, but the weight of the "love conquers all" ending overshadows this particular focus on memory.

The more I think about this film, the more it has grown on me. It's certainly impressive that Soderbergh managed to get such a reflective, cerebral film produced within the Hollywood system, and I am disappointed that it will likely be forgotten or neglected because it doesn't conform to the expectations of either an art house or a high-gloss science-fiction sensibility.

Posted by chuck at October 12, 2003 1:16 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)