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WELCOME TO SOLARIS
by David Blackwell

solaris11d.jpg

SOLARIS is like a river you float down and you see many interesting things during the trip as you travel to the final destination.  I liked SOLARIS the novel written by Polish sci-fi author Stanislaw Lem. It is a very intelligent sci-fi novel that ponders that we cant even contact alien life unless it is like us.

I have always wanted to see the 1972 Russian film adaptation directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. And I have wanted to for five years, and recently I hear Steven Soderbergh is directing an American version (a psycho-sexual one that is a cross between 2001 and The Last Tango In Paris) produced by James Cameron and starring George Clooney as Kris Kelvin.  SOLARIS the Russian version isn't available anymore on video in the US (but it has come out ona Criterion DVD as of November 2002), so I hunted it down on eBay. I won it for a low bid and received it two weeks ago.

Was I impressed by Tarkovsky's vision of Lem's novel? Yes. It may have had a slow burn pace to it, but I was fascinated by it. I wanted to see the trip to the very end. SOLARIS wasnt a movie that relied on special effects, but the few special effects in the movie were effective.

SOLARIS relied on the story, the poetry of how the movie moved, the actors, and leave things to our own imagination. The movie posed topics like that we are unable to comprehend aliens that aren't like us and what we don't understand we try to destroy. The movie is a vision. Its like youre experiencing a dream, but it is still fascinating after you watch it. Some have liked SOLARIS while others were bored by the slow pace. Now what is the movie about? I should tell you that.

SOLARIS starts with Kris Kelvin.  Kris is out on his walk and he comes back to his fathers house.  A man comes to visit and Kris watches the SOLARIS footage with the guy.  Kris is a psychologist who is going to be sent up into space and go the space station orbiting the planet Solaris.  His mission is simple: decide whether the people remaining are crazy (or not) and whether the Solaris Project needs to be ended. Kris thinks it is simple, but once he gets to the station (about 45 minutes into the movie) he starts experiencing the things the two remaining crew members are (the third one committed suicide because he couldnt take what he was experiencing).  The planet is creating people out of everyone's memories in an attempt to communicate.  The duplicates aren't aware they are just duplicates at first and they keep coming back no matter how you kill them.

Tarkovsky likes to have scenes drag on for five minutes without a word being said.  He likes to drag us with him and then the next big thing happens. Interesting pacing.  Interesting movie.  Lem may not like Tarkovskys movie and fans of the Tarkovsky film (some) think the Soderbergh version is a bad idea!  And there is even a web site from Australia devoted to SOLARIS (the book and both film adaptations)- http://www.k26.com/solaris  (a site that seems to be no more as of sometime during 2003) and now there are other sites covering the new adaptation which is a remake of the Russian version which is based on the Stanislaw Lem novel. 

James Cameron has seen Soderberghs rough cut and loves the new adaptation of SOLARIS.  Will it be good or will it just not be as good as the first adaptation like TRAFFIC compared to the superior TRAFFIK (the mini-series that TRAFFIC remade)? We will have to wait for that answer when SOLARIS is released on November 27th, 2002 in North America.

Now back to talking about Tarkovsky's adaptation of SOLARIS.  The movie has been described as mind bending and Russia's answer to 2001.  Tarkovsky,  by the way, didn't like 2001.  The movie has emotional power as Kris tries to deal with the woman he loved (Hari) who committed suicide years ago by injecting poison into herself. Now Kris has to deal with this duplicate Hari. Will he accept her and does this give him a second chance at being with Hari?

SOLARIS just kept me glued to the very end. I couldn't stop watching it.  The experience of this movie has the power to hypnotize or make one think.  I still have SOLARIS on the brain despite seeing the movie once. It is that powerful of a movie!  The book is good, but the only parts that bugged me is Stanislaw Lem just went on too long describing the activity of the sentient ocean of Solaris.  Let me correct myself.  The book is a classic, but the movie is a classic too.  Soderbergh is going to have to make a great movie to equal the power and emotion of Tarkovsky's poetic masterpiece.

Also see: http://enterline2.tripod.com/enterline/id85.html

This article/review is (c) 2003 David Blackwell.  reprint of this article without permission is forbidden.  No human duplicates were harmed during the writing and revision of this review/article.   send all somments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com   Check for site updates and added content at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia   

The Solaris image appears only for the purpose of this article/review and is (c)2002 Twentieth Century Fox. 

writer's note (11-27-2003):  this review/article has been updated to include a couple of new facts and slight revisions.