Solaris (2002)

Solaris (2002)Unlike the earlier film I have been aware of Solaris (2002) since it was released but never really took much notice of it, again because I didn’t think much of George Clooney, now times have changed and along came the opportunity to watch this sci-fi oddity. At first I thought I was in for something like Moon (2009) which was really something to watch, always cranking up the tension. However it was something completely different, whilst having the same minimal tone, with a few more actors thrown into the cast which sees psychiatrist Chris Kelvin (Clooney) requested to travel to a deep space station near the planet Solaris which has experienced some difficulties with the crew. Very little is revealed in the not too distant future message.

We are soon transported to a station that takes its visual cues from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and that is not the only think relating to the earlier film here. The sparseness of the spacecraft reflects the tone of the film that has seen a crew dwindle in numbers, having succumbed to madness. It’s not all so obvious until later on, without the aid of the flashbacks that see Kelvin meeting and marrying his late wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone) who is a fascinating and intriguing character who plagues the mind of Kelvin and more importantly the crew.

It takes a while to become clear until we see Rheya arrives not once but twice on the station, which confuses not just Kelvin but the audience who only learn more when a meeting between the two remaining members Gordon (Viola Davis) and Snow (Jeremy Davies). It’s Gordon who already is aware of what’s been going on explains all to us and more importantly a confused Kelvin who has been reunited with his dead wife (which is only hinted at this point). It seems that the planet is producing beings in the image of the crew memories, who then become trapped on the station.

A fascinating idea which has been used time and again, here with a new twist which sees a man who has not properly dealt with his wife’s death, having to confront that head on. When he is confronted with what he believes to be his wife, is based on his memories alone which produced a flawed being who is aware of that imperfection, which bothers her. There’s a need then to return to her natural form. I am reminded of the Nexus in Star Trek: Generations (1994) which allowed an individual to live in a moment for an eternity if they wanted to, creating their own world and life, dictated by the visitor. Here the beings enter our universe due to human memories, maybe to explore another way of life. Which in turn killed members of the crew which we knew was happening, putting to the back of our minds until we see Snow dead. A character who is far too chilled out to be really bothered by the events on the station.

It’s a strong metaphor for showing the importance and need to grieve when we lose someone. Instead of holding onto that absence to a point where we can’t carry on. They should become a memory within us that shall be remember, hopefully far longer than their actual life. If those memories took a physical form we would never really move on with our lives, living in a state of limbo and unhappiness, and that is not living. Sometimes it takes Sci Fi for us to see and understand a very human idea in a new light, showing the sometimes emptiness of life, as the station represents, and a crew who themselves are trapped in this state of mind. Visually it’s very minimal and stylized in a not too distant future. The soundtrack reflects that too create a sense of unease that can make things unbearable for the viewer. It references a lot of science fiction that has gone before to create it’s look, also bearing in mind its a remake of the Russian original

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2 responses

  1. Good review Tim. There’s definitely a “2001”-esque feel to it that Soderbergh incorporates very well into the whole sci-fi, mumbo-jumbo aspect of the story. Yet, he never loses sight of the humanity here and remains one of his most romantic flicks ever made. For better, and surely for worse, depending on who you are.

    January 4, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    • Cheers Dan, I was pleasantly surprised that Soderbergh was behind this, then again he’s dabbled in most genres to success. Never really thought about the romance really more the lack of from Kelvins now devoid life.

      January 4, 2014 at 6:34 pm

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