Thursday, July 05, 2012
Ask JKM a Question #7: Solaris? (2002)
A reader named Chris writes:
"I'd love to read a 'Muir' analysis (and hopefully an appreciation too) of the Soderbergh re-make of Solaris (11/27/2002). The film impacted me in ways I did not expect when I saw it 4 years back. In the same way I sense that you do, I derive the most enjoyment from films that deliver real identifiable characters, and subtext.
In terms of psychology and subtext, the Solaris re-make has it (no, I haven't seen the Lem original yet, I'm holding off on that for now, while I continue to experience the resonance wave patterns of the remake), and then, some. It's not only good Sci-Fi, but good horror, and a sort of "Eyes Wide Shut" type film too."
Hi Chris, I saw the remake in the theater back when it was released in 2002, and the ticket sales-lady actually tried to discourage me and my wife from seeing the film. She said that "nothing happens" in the movie and by that I presume she meant that there are no laser battles, no spaceships fighting, and no other obvious action scenes. Then I talked to a manager about turning down the heat in the auditorium, and told him offhandedly that I heard the movie was "kind of slow." He replied that I was wrong and that it was a brilliant movie. Thus two very different perspectives came at me regarding the film right out of the gate, before I even saw it.
Well, guess who was right? Solaris is a brilliant movie, and what it lacks in terms of sci-fi movie bells and whistles in gains through its dedicated excavation of character. The film is a profound meditation on identity, and how identity is actually an internally-constructed quality. It can't be constructed from outside by someone else, even someone who loves us very much. It's a haunting and memorable thesis, told in the context of a tragic love story.
I own the film on DVD -- it's a favorite -- so it looks like it's time to haul Solaris out and do a full-scale review. Look for it in the days ahead, and thanks for reminding me of a great movie from last decade.