OT?: "Solaris" NYT review

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Thornhill

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Nov 27, 2002, 8:37:29 AM11/27/02
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Oh, no!!

A "science-fiction film lacking action-adventure sequences"?

- What?

No "boyish friskiness, kineticism and pyrotechnics"?

- What??

No "vicarious physical release"?

- WHAT!!???

*ONLY* "cerebral and somber to the end"????

Say it ain't so!

Well, on the positive side, at least it's only 98 minutes long, right?

Thornhill


November 27, 2002
Their Love Will Go On in Outer Space
BY STEPHEN HOLDEN


Whether gazing darkly over the ocean from a captain's perch in "The Perfect
Storm" or contemplating the viscous, shape-shifting reality of a mysterious
planet from a space station in his new movie "Solaris," George Clooney
projects the brooding solipsism of a man's-man encased in a shell of
loneliness. In the Hollywood pantheon of recycled heroes, he suggests a
Clark Gable for the new millennium, without the raised eyebrow and rakish
leer. That space station, the setting for most of "Solaris," is a gleaming,
sterile pod that feels increasingly claustrophobic as this solemn
science-fiction fable prepares to dispense its intriguing riddles. The world
of "Solaris" may be a universe away from the frothy Las Vegas gloss of
"Ocean's Eleven," this star's last collaboration with Steven Soderbergh, who
directed both movies. But Mr. Clooney's guarded insularity injects both
films with steady dark bass notes.

"Solaris" observes its characters in semi-shadow much of the time. Mr.
Clooney's eyes glisten through the gloom like shiny black coals studded into
a craggy twilit landscape.

But a third of the way into the film, Mr. Clooney's shell begins to crack.
As his character, Chris Kelvin, starts to unravel, the grimy rivulets of
guilt and longing leaking out of him lend the movie a palpable subterranean
ache. Chris's tears aren't the warm, cathartic sobs of a grieving Rhett
Butler softened by one too many brandies, but the tremors of a man who
thought he had all the answers suddenly confronting a scary metaphysical
conundrum.

A psychiatrist called upon to investigate the increasingly irrational
behavior of a crew posted at a distant space station named the Prometheus,
Chris continues to mourn the suicide of his wife, Rheya (Natascha McElhone),
years after her death. As he confronts forces that might be described as a
kind of virtual reality emanating from his own mind, his certainty of what
is real and what is not begins to crumble, and a lifetime of stifled doubts
and regrets rears up to haunt him.

"Solaris" was adapted from the Polish science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem's
1961 novel, which also inspired a 1972 film by the Russian director Andrei
Tarkovsky. The story turns out to be a kind of aesthetic Rorschach for
filmmakers.

In the hands of Mr. Soderbergh, collaborating with the producer James
Cameron (who directed "Titanic"), many of the fussy scientific and
philosophical details of the two previous incarnations have been discarded.
Retooled into a sleek pop fable that doesn't bother to connect all its dots,
the movie aspires to fuse the mystical intellectual gamesmanship of "2001: A
Space Odyssey" with the love-beyond-the-grave romantic schmaltz of
"Titanic," without losing its cool. It's a tricky balancing act that doesn't
quite come off.

Because Mr. Soderbergh is the farthest thing from a pop sentimentalist, the
movie's strain of Kubrickian skepticism dampens any Cameronian romantic
heat. The chill is only accentuated by Cliff Martinez's ethereally
melancholy score of synthesized pulses filtered through strings.

Arriving at the space station, Chris discovers that the mission's commander,
Gibarian (Ulrich Tukur), who summoned him but refused to say what was wrong,
has committed suicide. The two remaining scientists, Snow (Jeremy Davies)
and Gordon (Viola Davis), are exhibiting symptoms of acute paranoia
presumably brought on by their scientific inquiries. Snow is a giggling,
maniacal trickster, while Gordon refuses to leave her quarters. One
tantalizing clue as to what's happening is the realization that the oceanic
planet under examination seems to be reacting to the scientists' presence,
as though it knows it's being observed.

Once he awakens after a troubled sleep to find his dead wife lying beside
him restored to life, Chris finds himself surrendering to the same unnerving
phenomena. The heart of the film is his agonized dialogue with this
flesh-and-blood phantom woman who seems physically real but whose selective
memory suggests that she is only a mental projection of what he remembers of
her.

As the couple rake over their past, we learn that the bitterest bone of
contention between them was Rheya's failure to inform Chris of her
infertility before they were married. Now, in her resurrected state, she
appears weirdly indestructible.

The movie goes out of its way to emphasize that Mr. Clooney's Chris and Ms.
McElhone's Rheya are no futuristic Leo and Kate locked in eternal puppy love
but a sorrowful couple who weathered many battles while married. Her wide
eyes staring hawklike out of her angular mask of a face, Ms. McElhone's
Rheya projects a forbidding sensuality. Even when she becomes emotionally
unstrung, her eruptions have the slightly robotic quality of the android she
might well turn out to be.

As the fable accumulates more layers of ambiguity, it recalls "The Cage,"
the seldom-seen pilot episode of "Star Trek" in which the starship commander
(played by Jeffrey Hunter) is disfigured in battle and imprisoned by a
mentally advanced, but physically depleted tribe of telepathic aliens who
use him for their pleasure. In the episode's ambiguously happy ending, he
and an equally damaged woman end up living in a shared romantic illusion
that becomes their captors' erotic entertainment. Heaven may exist, the
episode suggests, but it's just a manipulated fantasy.

In toying with some of the same ideas, "Solaris" throws in such enigmatic
touches as the appearance of an unsmiling deific child extending its hand to
Chris like Michelangelo's God creating the first man. But "Solaris" is too
coolheaded to make a big fuss over such imagery. The last thing it wants to
do is soothe us with grandiose assurances from the "Touched by an Angel"
playbook.

The movie, which opens nationwide today, is visually handsome in an austere
way. Its space station, which from the outside resembles two interlocking
bicycles, has an interior that suggests an elegant oversize Laundromat with
furniture that reminds you of giant computer keyboards. Solaris itself is a
golden, rainbow-flecked swirl of matter that exerts an increasingly
irresistible gravitational pull.

But once the novelty of the space station has worn off, the movie's
atmosphere begins to feel uncomfortably cramped and stifling. For "Solaris"
is a science-fiction film lacking action-adventure sequences. The absence of
boyish friskiness, kineticism and pyrotechnics makes it a film that offers
no vicarious physical release. Its insistence on remaining cerebral and
somber to the end may be a sign of integrity, but it should cost it dearly
at the box office.

"Solaris" is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It has sexual
situations and discreetly photographed moments of nudity.

SOLARIS

Directed by Steven Soderbergh; written by Mr. Soderbergh, based on the book
by Stanislaw Lem; director of photography, Peter Andrews; edited by Mary Ann
Bernard; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Philip Messina;
produced by James Cameron, Rae Sanchini and Jon Landau; released by 20th
Century Fox. Running time: 98 minutes. This film is rated PG-13.

WITH: George Clooney (Kelvin), Natascha McElhone (Rheya), Viola Davis
(Gordon), Jeremy Davies (Snow) and Ulrich Tukur (Gibarian).

Copyright The New York Times Company | Permissions | Privacy Policy

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/27/movies/27SOLA.html?8iwem=&pagewanted=print
&position=top

Peter Tonguette

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Nov 27, 2002, 1:32:57 PM11/27/02
to
Holden's review and the reception of the film in general has been pretty
disappointing to me. The last time I remember seeing a studio movie this
serious and ambitious it was December of 1998 and Terry Malick was returning
after a 20 year hiatus...

And, frankly, the charge that Soderbergh's film is "cerebral" or "cold"
mystifies me as much as similar charges made against Kubrick's work do.

Peter

Gordon Dahlquist

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Nov 27, 2002, 2:32:50 PM11/27/02
to

hoberman's review in the voice is about as positive a review I've ever
seen him give a studio release ... and this from a guy who'd very
familiar with the tarkovsky film. I've yet to see the film, but the fact
that holden's criticism comes down to "Its insistence on remaining


cerebral and somber to the end may be a sign of integrity, but it should

cost it dearly at the box office" is pretty pathetic.

on the other hand, I'll happily direct you to armond white's review, where
he finds that soderberghc's "indie" sensibility is a poor cousin to the
"movie brat" generation of compassionate genre-lovers, and specifically
faults solaris for failing to come up to the high levels of achievement
established by that trio of pauline's darlings, spielberg, de palma and
hill, in their recent masterworks, minority report, mission to mars, and
supernova. really. mission to mars.

http://www.nypress.com/15/48/film/film2.cfm

Peter Tonguette

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Nov 27, 2002, 5:27:01 PM11/27/02
to
Gordon Dahlquist wrote:

>hoberman's review in the voice is about as positive a review I've ever
>seen him give a studio release ... and this from a guy who'd very
>familiar with the tarkovsky film. I've yet to see the film, but the fact
>that holden's criticism comes down to "Its insistence on remaining
>cerebral and somber to the end may be a sign of integrity, but it should
>cost it dearly at the box office" is pretty pathetic.

I saw the film at a press screening on Thursday and I can report that, locally,
the film is inspiring just as divisive personal responses. I am one of maybe
three people who absolutely love the film; on the other side of the spectrum,
the lead critic at our main daily paper gave it two stars. This sort of
response really does remind me of how TTRL was received four years ago.

But "Solaris" is a major, major achievement, in my opinion. I'll look forward
to your thoughts on it - it has SS reaching for the brass ring in a way he
never has before and, amazingly, succeeding. Soderbergh's extremely prolific
experimentation over the past four years - six films in wildly different modes,
genres, sizes - has paid off with a film as fully realized, and personal, as
anything he's ever done. or any American film this year.

I'll ignore your hopeless attempts to turn me into an Armond White basher,
Gordon. :)

Peter

Gorn Captain

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Nov 27, 2002, 6:21:49 PM11/27/02
to
The ironic part is that the Star Trek pilot, (which is often seen despite what
is said in the review, not to mention getting the plot points of same all mixed
up) was also percieved as "cold" and "cerebral" by NBC. I'm seeing a pattern
here. ;)

Padraig L Henry

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Nov 27, 2002, 7:33:56 PM11/27/02
to
On 27 Nov 2002 18:32:57 GMT, ptong...@aol.com (Peter Tonguette)
wrote:

>Holden's review and the reception of the film in general has been pretty
>disappointing to me.

That's usually a very good sign, Peter; seems like a very promising -
though, as previously argued, vainly Tarkovsky-derivative - film, then
...

>The last time I remember seeing a studio movie this
>serious and ambitious it was December of 1998 and Terry Malick was returning
>after a 20 year hiatus...
>
>And, frankly, the charge that Soderbergh's film is "cerebral" or "cold"
>mystifies me as much as similar charges made against Kubrick's work do.

But when Spielberg undertakes a deeply flawed and clueless attempt at
being "cerebral" and "cold" (as in AI), the critical mainstream
[especially the Armond Whites] declare him a "genius"!!!!

Same old story ...

Padraig
... have you seen Ozon's Eight Women yet? Chabrol and Malle meet
Altman's Gosford Park by way of a la-la-la Dennis Potter.

Peter Tonguette

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Nov 27, 2002, 7:48:49 PM11/27/02
to
Padraig L Henry wrote:

>>Holden's review and the reception of the film in general has been pretty
>>disappointing to me.
>
>That's usually a very good sign, Peter; seems like a very promising -
>though, as previously argued, vainly Tarkovsky-derivative - film, then
>...

Just to show how off-target expectations can be, I predicted in my review of
"Full Frontal" that this film would be warmly received. But I think I was
really expecting a more conventional, "Hollywood" version of a film
masterpiece, despite Soderbergh's track record. What we got is actually
something that can be mentioned in the same breath as the Tarkovsky original,
in my opinion. Thus, critical confoundment instead of critical accolades.

>>The last time I remember seeing a studio movie this
>>serious and ambitious it was December of 1998 and Terry Malick was returning
>>after a 20 year hiatus...
>>
>>And, frankly, the charge that Soderbergh's film is "cerebral" or "cold"
>>mystifies me as much as similar charges made against Kubrick's work do.
>
>But when Spielberg undertakes a deeply flawed and clueless attempt at
>being "cerebral" and "cold" (as in AI), the critical mainstream
>[especially the Armond Whites] declare him a "genius"!!!!
>
>Same old story ...
>
>Padraig
>... have you seen Ozon's Eight Women yet? Chabrol and Malle meet
>Altman's Gosford Park by way of a la-la-la Dennis Potter.

There was a press screening of this here (it has yet to actually open in
central Ohio - big surprise), but I missed it unfortunately. Among recent
releases, though, I can heartily recommend the latest Manoel de Oliveria, "I'm
Going Home," and Todd Haynes' "Far From Heaven." It's one helluva good year
for film.

Peter

Winston Castro

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Nov 27, 2002, 9:00:59 PM11/27/02
to
Just a "heads up" for anyone who has access to the TCM cable channel.

Friday evening at 8:30pm, US Central Time, TCM (Turner Classic
Movies) is showing the original Solaris.

Get those VCR tapes ready people!


Matthew Dickinson

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Nov 27, 2002, 9:23:12 PM11/27/02
to
Gordon Dahlquist <gd...@columbia.edu> wrote in message news:<Pine.GSO.4.44.021127...@hazelnut.cc.columbia.edu>...

> http://www.nypress.com/15/48/film/film2.cfm
>

hey, peter, that page also has a review of altman's Images

matthew

Mike Jackson

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Nov 27, 2002, 10:16:32 PM11/27/02
to Winston Castro
in article pttauug4j0l94ormc...@4ax.com, Winston Castro at
at7000...@hotmail.com wrote on 11/27/02 8:00 PM:

Bless you for the heads up.
I've been so busy that probably would have went right by me...
--
Mike Jackson
Mental Pictures Photography & Design
http://www.mental-pictures.com/
Phone/Fax: 228-696-2702 Cell: 228-918-4596

Josh

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Nov 28, 2002, 2:07:38 AM11/28/02
to
>The ironic part is that the Star Trek pilot, (which is often seen despite
>what
>is said in the review, not to mention getting the plot points of same all
>mixed
>up) was also percieved as "cold" and "cerebral" by NBC. I'm seeing a pattern
>here. ;)

The reviewer didn't even get the episode right! In the original pilot "The
Cage," Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) visited this planet to try to rescue a
crew that had crashed there; it turns out there was only one survivor. The
natives of the planet trap Pike and try to persuade him to marry the girl,
using their powerful brains to give him the illusion of whatever he wants - or
at least, what they think he wants. In the end, though, he overcomes their
power by realizing its all an illusion, and discovers that the girl is not
really the beautiful young temptress, but horribly disfigured from the crash,
and alone. Thus, problem solved, crew of the Enterprise saved, and Capt. Pike
agrees to allow the aliens to give the girl the illusion of Pike staying
behind.

Now, what the reviewer was referring to was "The Menagerie," a two-part episode
that Gene Roddenberry did in the first season to get "The Cage" on air. It is
there that we see Capt. Pike has been horribly injured in an accident, unable
to express himself other than the use of flashing lights, one which signals a
"yes" and one a "no". Capt. Kirk and Spock have come to pay their respects to
Pike, but Spock has other ideas; he kidnaps Pike using the Enterprise, and sets
course for that alien planet, Talos IV. Capt. Kirk and the starfleet admiral
chase the Enterprise in a shuttlecraft and catch up with it. Spock has locked
the controls into going to Talos IV, despite it being a forbidden planet. He
is brought down for court martial as the shit travels to this planet, and in
his defense, conveniently offers pretty much the entire episode of "The Cage"
which was preserved in the ship's library, apparently by invisible cameramen
following Capt. Pike through his capture. (OK, it's science fiction, I can
suspend that much disbelief.) At the end of the episode, it is revealed that
all Spock wants to do is bring his former captain to that planet, where the
powerful aliens can give Pike the illusion and feeling of comfort with the
girl, allowing him to forget his injuries and function as if he were not
severely wounded. And thus, having saved Capt. Pike and forgiving Spock for
breaking every rule in the book, Capt. Kirk takes the Enterprise off to another
mission. (Sounds a bit like Star Trek III, if you ask me.)

Anyhow... I've obviously watched too much TV, but it would be nice if reviewers
could get their references right.


Josh

VertigoLand http://members.aol.com/VertigoMan
Me (the online diary) http://members.aol.com/vertigoman/me
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eyeball kid

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Nov 28, 2002, 11:21:12 AM11/28/02
to
ptong...@aol.com (Peter Tonguette) wrote in message news:<20021127133257...@mb-mo.aol.com>...

Last Sunday the NYT had an article on the film. Part of it said:

But Mr. Cameron's interest in the project languished, and when Mr.
Soderbergh approached him in 1999, Mr. Cameron gave Mr. Soderbergh his
head to develop the material as he wished. In his role as producer,
Mr. Cameron was content to serve as Mr. Soderbergh's sounding board
through endless conversations and many script revisions.

He added that he had no plans to make his own version of "Solaris,"
but that's not quite the end of it. "You may yet see my ideas," he
said cheerfully. "My version would probably have been much, much
further afield. I had so many ideas that they may reappear through the
cracks of other projects."

Tarkovsky's "Solaris" was called the Russian answer to Stanley
Kubrick's "2001." Mr. Soderbergh's may be a more plausible modern-day
candidate. "I always thought of the planet as the equivalent of the
monolith," he said. "I happen to think that `2001' is one of the most
important pieces of art created by an American filmmaker. No one who
has seen it and makes films can escape its influence."

mike

dc

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Nov 28, 2002, 1:28:20 PM11/28/02
to
San Fran Chronicle gave Solaris a D+ and said:

"That sounds intriguing, and one can see why the concept grabbed Soderbergh.
(It also grabbed the late Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky, who in 1972 made
an equally inert "Solaris" from Stanislaw Lem's novel of the same name.) But
while the story might at least seem to suggest an emotional movie about
life, death, identity, grief, joy and obsession, "Solaris" feels as though
it were filmed in a meat locker. It gives a cold-as-Kubrick treatment to
touchy-feely subject matter and keeps the audience at a distance.

So we get a love story, but a love story made up either of tortured
confrontations, seen in flashback, or long conversations in space."

Whoops this guy thinks its as bad a Kubrick film....so it must be good, but
whats with this 99 minute running time?

dc


Gorn Captain

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Nov 28, 2002, 2:18:09 PM11/28/02
to
I agree. These guys are getting paid, so they ought to be doing their homework. ;)
The "invisible cameramen" were supposed to be the Talosians themselves. The images
were being "broadcast" from the planet itself to the Enterprise.

Jan

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Nov 28, 2002, 11:17:07 PM11/28/02
to
mp...@mediaone.net (eyeball kid) wrote in message news:<7aee4def.02112...@posting.google.com>...

> Last Sunday the NYT had an article on the film. Part of it said:

[...]


> Tarkovsky's "Solaris" was called the Russian answer to Stanley
> Kubrick's "2001."

It's like an infection: one person says it and then there is no
stopping this nonsense. Vincent Bugliosi whose well-thought-out rants
I simply adore said people usually see what they expect to see, not
what's actually out there. It just *seems* like such an obvious idea
that Tarkovsky's "Solaris" should be the Russian answer to "2001".

Well - it wasn't. Tarkovsky had not even seen "2001" until mid way
through the production of his "Solaris". Having seen it, both
Tarkovsky and his cameraman (Vadim Yusov) decided not to change
anything in their film as they both disliked "2001" for at least two
reasons:

1. What "2001" was saying re. the genesis of man

2. The way technology was shown in the film - "as a museum exhibit"
instead of - as Tarkovsky considered proper - "matter-of-factly".

AFAIK the line about "Soviet answer to '2001'" was invented by the
original US distributor of "Solaris" - the same one who cut 1 hour
from it.

I saw Soderbergh's film yesterday and thought it was interesting
except the ending ruined it, I think. At best, it's obscure. Obscure
as in: the director didn't really have any idea either. At worst, it's
a happy end. I'll sleep on it.

Jan Bielawski

Wordsmith

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Nov 29, 2002, 1:45:28 PM11/29/02
to
mp...@mediaone.net (eyeball kid) wrote in message news:<7aee4def.02112...@posting.google.com>...
> ptong...@aol.com (Peter Tonguette) wrote in message news:<20021127133257...@mb-mo.aol.com>...
> > Holden's review and the reception of the film in general has been pretty
> > disappointing to me. The last time I remember seeing a studio movie this
> > serious and ambitious it was December of 1998 and Terry Malick was returning
> > after a 20 year hiatus...
> >
> > And, frankly, the charge that Soderbergh's film is "cerebral" or "cold"
> > mystifies me as much as similar charges made against Kubrick's work do.
> >
> > Peter
>
> Last Sunday the NYT had an article on the film. Part of it said:
>
> But Mr. Cameron's interest in the project languished, and when Mr.
> Soderbergh approached him in 1999, Mr. Cameron gave Mr. Soderbergh his
> head to develop the material as he wished. In his role as producer,
> Mr. Cameron was content to serve as Mr. Soderbergh's sounding board
> through endless conversations and many script revisions.

I'm not shocked Cameron grew weary of it. *Solaris* doesn't sound like his
territory anyway.


> He added that he had no plans to make his own version of "Solaris,"
> but that's not quite the end of it. "You may yet see my ideas," he
> said cheerfully. "My version would probably have been much, much
> further afield. I had so many ideas that they may reappear through the
> cracks of other projects."

"Much, much further afield" indeed. Explosions every three minutes, etc.



> Tarkovsky's "Solaris" was called the Russian answer to Stanley
> Kubrick's "2001." Mr. Soderbergh's may be a more plausible modern-day
> candidate. "I always thought of the planet as the equivalent of the
> monolith," he said. "I happen to think that `2001' is one of the most
> important pieces of art created by an American filmmaker. No one who
> has seen it and makes films can escape its influence."

I'm mulling over whether to see it or not. I haven't even screened the
original yet.

Wordsmith :)

> mike

dc

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Nov 29, 2002, 2:15:24 PM11/29/02
to

Wordsmith :)

> mike<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

If one has not seen Tarkovsky's version it is a good film that one would
suggest lots of Kubrick influence. It is a visually good film, not as
austere and bizarre as the original film, but more enjoyable, it is just
very limited due to the story itself which could be boiled down to a 1/2
hour Twilight Zone episode. People were laughing in the theater ---at things
that weren't at all funny---it will probably be ignored by the masses.

I think Soderberg should have rewritten it, given it some meat on the bone
for this century--he should have sold out on this one and made it more
hollywoody--cause as it stands it just doens't have a whole lot of impact
either as a Sci fi or as a obscure cosmic film.

dc


Padraig L Henry

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Nov 30, 2002, 8:34:57 PM11/30/02
to
On 28 Nov 2002 20:17:07 -0800, dev_n...@yahoo.com (Jan) wrote:

>AFAIK the line about "Soviet answer to '2001'" was invented by the
>original US distributor of "Solaris" - the same one who cut 1 hour
>from it.

Yes, interesting how advertising slogans become the "historical
record" in the land of advertising ...

Padraig

Padraig L Henry

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Nov 30, 2002, 8:35:15 PM11/30/02
to
On Fri, 29 Nov 2002 19:15:24 GMT, "dc" <dc...@ojai.net> wrote:

>
>I think Soderberg should have rewritten it, given it some meat on the bone
>for this century--he should have sold out on this one and made it more
>hollywoody--cause as it stands it just doens't have a whole lot of impact
>either as a Sci fi or as a obscure cosmic film.

Not having seen the film yet, I can't comment on its content, but your
sentiments here are disturbingly gross. If the film is as indicated in
numerous reviews, I'm delighted Soderbergh hasn't sold out on this one
to a fucked-up Hollywood ...

Padraig

Padraig L Henry

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Nov 30, 2002, 8:35:34 PM11/30/02
to
On 28 Nov 2002 00:48:49 GMT, ptong...@aol.com (Peter Tonguette)
wrote:

>Padraig L Henry wrote:


>
>>>Holden's review and the reception of the film in general has been pretty
>>>disappointing to me.
>>
>>That's usually a very good sign, Peter; seems like a very promising -
>>though, as previously argued, vainly Tarkovsky-derivative - film, then
>>...
>
>Just to show how off-target expectations can be, I predicted in my review of
>"Full Frontal" that this film would be warmly received. But I think I was
>really expecting a more conventional, "Hollywood" version of a film
>masterpiece, despite Soderbergh's track record. What we got is actually
>something that can be mentioned in the same breath as the Tarkovsky original,
>in my opinion. Thus, critical confoundment instead of critical accolades.

Yes, the reception of EWS in 1999 also comes to mind. And fast-sell,
seductively vacuous theatrical trailers don't help here either; some
of the best films I've seen over the past few years all had
false-expectation lousy trailers ... and those for Soderbergh's
Solaris and Haynes' Far From Heaven don't help matters either. Die
Another Day, die another trailer ...

Mind you, one thing they do achieve is to give a whole new meaning to
"trailer trash" :-)

>>>The last time I remember seeing a studio movie this
>>>serious and ambitious it was December of 1998 and Terry Malick was returning
>>>after a 20 year hiatus...
>>>
>>>And, frankly, the charge that Soderbergh's film is "cerebral" or "cold"
>>>mystifies me as much as similar charges made against Kubrick's work do.
>>
>>But when Spielberg undertakes a deeply flawed and clueless attempt at
>>being "cerebral" and "cold" (as in AI), the critical mainstream
>>[especially the Armond Whites] declare him a "genius"!!!!
>>
>>Same old story ...
>>
>>Padraig
>>... have you seen Ozon's Eight Women yet? Chabrol and Malle meet
>>Altman's Gosford Park by way of a la-la-la Dennis Potter.
>
>There was a press screening of this here (it has yet to actually open in
>central Ohio - big surprise), but I missed it unfortunately. Among recent
>releases, though, I can heartily recommend the latest Manoel de Oliveria, "I'm
>Going Home," and Todd Haynes' "Far From Heaven." It's one helluva good year
>for film.

Interesting you should mention Haynes's latest film here. Both films,
Ozon's and Haynes', are distinct homages to the 1950s world of Douglas
Sirk, the latter more explicitly to All That Heaven Allows, the former
by being shot in the lush Technicolour style of a 1950s Sirk
melodrama.

Padraig

DLew022

unread,
Nov 30, 2002, 8:46:58 PM11/30/02
to
I just rolled in from seeing "Solaris" and have to admit I was a tad
dissapointed. I *appreciate* what Soderberg has done and the fillm looks GREAT.
When I say I appreciate him, it's along the same lines as PT Anderson/"Punch
Drunk Love." I like how these guys are taking mainstream actors and putting
them in these complex art films. I like watching the masses squirm. BUT....

Soderbergs "Solaris" just didn't give me much to think about. I think Jan made
a good point in an earlier post in that it seemed like Soderberg didn't really
know what he was trying to say and just sort of left it at that. That was how I
interpreted what Jan wrote anyway :D

I guess what I'm saying is...I didn't hate this film but I doubt I'll go back
and watch it again and really try and see what Soderberg was saying. Unlike
say..."2001" or "Vertigo"....my interest isn't piqued. I may go back and watch
"Full Frontal" a few more times as it intrigued me....but i disliked it.

I'm yammering on and not making my point very well here.... I think I'm trying
to say....there wasn't enough "in" Solaris to get me thinking. "Vanilla Sky"
gave me more to ponder than "Solaris." However, Clooney was terrific and the
film is visually stunning. Soderberg's choice of film stock is fascinating.

don
p.s. How much longer will Jeremy Davies be hired to be the bumbling, mumbling
sissy. The guy is the SAME in every film.

dc

unread,
Nov 30, 2002, 9:00:11 PM11/30/02
to

Padraig<<<<<<<<<<<

He just made a weak film by being too true to the original. Its like the
original, with an hour and a half cut out, he turned it into a quickie TV
drama made for PBS.

dc


Greg Lowry

unread,
Dec 1, 2002, 3:01:54 AM12/1/02
to
On 11/30/02 5:46 PM, in article 20021130204658...@mb-ck.aol.com,
"DLew022" <dle...@aol.com> wrote:


I think Jeremy was doing Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now. BTW, I loved every
frame of Solaris.

--


PT Caffey

unread,
Dec 2, 2002, 4:20:27 AM12/2/02
to
"dc" <dc...@ojai.net> wrote in message news:<g1PF9.19155$

> If one has not seen Tarkovsky's version it is a good film that one would
> suggest lots of Kubrick influence. It is a visually good film, not as
> austere and bizarre as the original film, but more enjoyable, it is just
> very limited due to the story itself which could be boiled down to a 1/2
> hour Twilight Zone episode.

I agree. Soderberg's Solaris is terrific visually and, I think,
dramatically. But his IS the "boiled down" version. >SPOILER< In
any other sf film, can you imagine seeing a scene in which the
characters discuss, in detail, the "doohickey field destruction ray"
and then NOT see the device in action? Very economical!

> People were laughing in the theater ---at things
> that weren't at all funny---it will probably be ignored by the masses.
>

People tend to laugh when they're confused, anxious or confronted with
lingering shots of George Clooney's ass, which SHOULD be ignored by
the masses.

> I think Soderberg should have rewritten it, given it some meat on the bone
> for this century--he should have sold out on this one and made it more
> hollywoody--cause as it stands it just doens't have a whole lot of impact
> either as a Sci fi or as a obscure cosmic film.
>
> dc

Given that "hollywoody" means dreadful and unwatchable, I'm at a loss
to understand why you believe a more "hollywoody" Solaris would have
greater impact. Solaris is a very good sf film in a minor key. With
such films, the best we can hope for is a small financial disaster;
otherwise, we won't see another one for some time.

PT Caffey

dc

unread,
Dec 2, 2002, 11:30:32 AM12/2/02
to
> I think Soderberg should have rewritten it, given it some meat on the bone
> for this century--he should have sold out on this one and made it more
> hollywoody--cause as it stands it just doens't have a whole lot of impact
> either as a Sci fi or as a obscure cosmic film.
>
> dc

Given that "hollywoody" means dreadful and unwatchable, I'm at a loss
to understand why you believe a more "hollywoody" Solaris would have
greater impact. Solaris is a very good sf film in a minor key. With
such films, the best we can hope for is a small financial disaster;
otherwise, we won't see another one for some time.

PT Caffey<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

I guess what I was saying was that Solaris to me was too bland, I was hoping
for something more cosmic and oriignal---and I would have preferred a
Hollywoody film to this restrained TV special.

dc


Peter Tonguette

unread,
Dec 2, 2002, 3:42:00 PM12/2/02
to
Padraig L Henry wrote:

>Yes, the reception of EWS in 1999 also comes to mind. And fast-sell,
>seductively vacuous theatrical trailers don't help here either; some
>of the best films I've seen over the past few years all had
>false-expectation lousy trailers ... and those for Soderbergh's
>Solaris and Haynes' Far From Heaven don't help matters either. Die
>Another Day, die another trailer ...
>
>Mind you, one thing they do achieve is to give a whole new meaning to
>"trailer trash" :-)

In this context, what are we to expect from Scorsese's "Gangs of New York"? :)

But you're absolutely right. A friend of mine who loves Soderbergh's "Solaris"
was actually looking forward to it >until< he saw the trailer. Of course, it
didn't matter once he saw the film, but I think the marketing campaign made the
film actually off-putting for the audience who would probably best respond to
the movie, while failing to draw in the "masses." A lose-lose situation. The
other recent instance of this, for me, was the trailer for "Gosford Park." My
expectations were seriously lowered, as the trailer made the film look like a
minor Altman riff on Agatha Christie instead of the devastating class critique
that it was.

I guess all of these films fall into the categories of "hard sells"... even the
Kubrick-cut trailer for "Full Metal Jacket" is seriously disappointing and I
wonder what I would have made of it back in 1987...

I can heartily recommend the latest Manoel de Oliveria,
>"I'm
>>Going Home," and Todd Haynes' "Far From Heaven." It's one helluva good
>year
>>for film.
>
>Interesting you should mention Haynes's latest film here. Both films,
>Ozon's and Haynes', are distinct homages to the 1950s world of Douglas
>Sirk, the latter more explicitly to All That Heaven Allows, the former
>by being shot in the lush Technicolour style of a 1950s Sirk
>melodrama.

This has me intrigued about "8 Women" then... I'll have to catch up with it on
video. Ozon's "Under the Sand" was a fine film, featuring a knockout
performance by Charlotte Rampling. I might say here that if Julianne Moore
doesn't win an Oscar for "Far From Heaven," I'm moving to France.

Peter

mark de rozario

unread,
Dec 3, 2002, 6:07:35 PM12/3/02
to
"dc" <dc...@ojai.net>
>
> If one has not seen Tarkovsky's version it is a good film that one would
> suggest lots of Kubrick influence. It is a visually good film, not as
> austere and bizarre as the original film, but more enjoyable, it is just
> very limited due to the story itself which could be boiled down to a 1/2
> hour Twilight Zone episode.

I haven't seen Soderberg's Solaris, and I'm no fan of Soderberg, but I
must protest on behalf of Lem's original novel, whose story could
certainly not be 'boiled down' into a 1/2 hour Twilight Zone ep.
Desire and the uncomfortable messages it communicates about us;
whether it is possible to communicate with the genuinely alien, and
what that would entail, and mean; the power of the unconscious versus
the attempt to rationalize; the enigmas of the cosmos. All of these
fall within the compass of Lem's remarkable novel. There is much in
the film that didn't make it into Tarkovsky's film, never mind
Soderberg's.

<snip>

> I think Soderberg should have rewritten it,

Or perhaps returned to the Lem source-novel?

>given it some meat on the bone
> for this century--he should have sold out on this one and made it more
> hollywoody--

But what would have been the point in that? Why not make another film
altogether rather than turn out Sphere 2 or Event Horizon: the Sequel?

dc

unread,
Dec 3, 2002, 7:20:55 PM12/3/02
to
dc" <dc...@ojai.net>
>
> If one has not seen Tarkovsky's version it is a good film that one would
> suggest lots of Kubrick influence. It is a visually good film, not as
> austere and bizarre as the original film, but more enjoyable, it is just
> very limited due to the story itself which could be boiled down to a 1/2
> hour Twilight Zone episode.

I haven't seen Soderberg's Solaris, and I'm no fan of Soderberg, but I
must protest on behalf of Lem's original novel, whose story could
certainly not be 'boiled down' into a 1/2 hour Twilight Zone ep.
Desire and the uncomfortable messages it communicates about us;
whether it is possible to communicate with the genuinely alien, and
what that would entail, and mean; the power of the unconscious versus
the attempt to rationalize; the enigmas of the cosmos. All of these
fall within the compass of Lem's remarkable novel. There is much in
the film that didn't make it into Tarkovsky's film, never mind
Soderberg's.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<


I bought the book years ago and never got around to reading it. My comments
above are a bit sarcastic--maily because Solaris was ok but bascially a big
disappointment. I would rather it was a mindless scifi then what it
was......but of course i would prefer it to have been great. I expected too
much.

<snip>

> I think Soderberg should have rewritten it,

Or perhaps returned to the Lem source-novel?

>given it some meat on the bone
> for this century--he should have sold out on this one and made it more
> hollywoody--

But what would have been the point in that? Why not make another film
altogether rather than turn out Sphere 2 or Event Horizon: the
Sequel?<<<<<<<<

Thoe were pathetic movies. But here we had the potential of Cameron and
Soderberg coming up with a Big original sci fi film...and rediujng the
original film and not outdoing it in thei day and age is ridiculous.


dc


mark de rozario

unread,
Dec 4, 2002, 2:51:16 AM12/4/02
to
ma...@diskontent.net (mark de rozario) wrote in message news:<ca59a535.02120...@posting.google.com>...
> "dc" <dc...@ojai.net>
>There is much in
> the film that didn't make it into Tarkovsky's film, never mind
> Soderberg's.

Correction: that should obviously have read 'there is much in the novel'....
Sorry....

Josh

unread,
Dec 4, 2002, 3:48:29 AM12/4/02
to
>I agree. These guys are getting paid, so they ought to be doing their
>homework. ;)
>The "invisible cameramen" were supposed to be the Talosians themselves. The
>images
>were being "broadcast" from the planet itself to the Enterprise.

Been too long since I've seen it.. unfortunately, Paramount insists on
releasing the DVDs with only two episodes on each, even though they could fit
at least four on one, and I just can't afford to buy the whole series. Wish
they would release them season by season like they've been with Next Gen.


Josh

Me (cool stuff) http://members.aol.com/vertigoman/me
CDR Trading:
http://members.aol.com/vertigoman/me/bootlist.html


Josh

unread,
Dec 4, 2002, 3:51:50 AM12/4/02
to
>Vincent Bugliosi whose well-thought-out rants
>I simply adore said people usually see what they expect to see, not
>what's actually out there.

Truer words were never spoken. Same thing that happened when Eyes Wide Shut
came out, and people who saw it (some critics even) said it sucked because
there wasn't graphic sex in it. Well, who said there would be? Not anyone
involved in the film. And, I'll take it one step further - the Rolling Stone
review of Solaris keeps all of the original character names and spellings that
were in the Russian film, so did the reviewer even bother to see Soderbergh's
movie?

Josh

unread,
Dec 4, 2002, 4:00:59 AM12/4/02
to
I loved Soderbergh's "Solaris" - I was intrigued at how it was marketed,
though. The first teaser trailer, which came out over the summer, which showed
only the planet and some creepy text implied that it would be a horror/sci-fi
combo along the lines of Alien. And then the TV ads are showing only the
flashback scenes with the couple embracing, which is what's on the poster.
They were obviously trying to get the sci-fi geeks, the horror film buffs, the
romance lovers, and the rest of the general public in to see the movie.
Instead, you had the sci-fi people going "Yeah, they say it's a sci-fi movie,
but it looks like a dumb love story - there's not even a spacesuit in the
commercial!" and then you had the romance people going "Yeah, I can see they're
kissing, but they're gonna be in outerspace and it's gonna be all weird and
technical and shit." And the rest of the public said "Let's see Harry Potter!"
The way Fox put it out there, it didn't stand a chance. I went to see it the
night it opened, and the evening showing at my local theatre was sold out. I
was impressed, I thought that meant it was going to be doing great - I went
back home, checked the paper, and went to see it at another theatre about
twenty minutes from my house - and it was empty. And I kinda knew from that
point on that whenever the grosses came in, they weren't gonna be good.

Fortunately for the studio and all those involved, it only cost $49 mil to
make. It's possible they spent more on promoting it. A good home video/DVD
release may give it a second life, which it certainly deserves.

mark de rozario

unread,
Dec 4, 2002, 11:06:22 AM12/4/02
to
"dc" <dc...@ojai.net> wrote in message news:<HTbH9.24124$kO5.4...@news1.news.adelphia.net>...
> dc" <dc...@ojai.net>

<snip>


>
> I bought the book years ago and never got around to reading it.

Do read it, it's well worth the effort.

> My comments
> above are a bit sarcastic--maily because Solaris was ok but bascially a big
> disappointment.

i can't comment, having not seen Soderberg's film yet, but I don't
hold out much hope after what you and others have said; Soderberg has
always struck me as the opposite of an auteur, every film different,
no consistent vision ---- and he seems at his worst when trying to be
intellectual (cf the appalling Kafka, which spectaculary missed the
point).

>I would rather it was a mindless scifi then what it
> was......
>but of course i would prefer it to have been great. I expected too
> much.
>
> <snip>
>
> > I think Soderberg should have rewritten it,
>
> Or perhaps returned to the Lem source-novel?
>
> >given it some meat on the bone
> > for this century--he should have sold out on this one and made it more
> > hollywoody--
>
> But what would have been the point in that? Why not make another film
> altogether rather than turn out Sphere 2 or Event Horizon: the
> Sequel?<<<<<<<<
>
> Thoe were pathetic movies. But here we had the potential of Cameron and
> Soderberg coming up with a Big original sci fi film...and rediujng the
> original film and not outdoing it in thei day and age is ridiculous.
>

Yeh, I agree they were pathetic movies, that was my point; but they
were also, in effect, 'Hollywoody' versions of Solaris. That's about
as good as it's gonna get for a Hollywood take on Solaris' themes.
BTW, do you really think that Cameron and Soderberg could 'outdo'
Tarkovsky? Come to think of it, could anyone, let alone that pair? I
don't know what you mean by 'this day and age' either: it strikes me
that the seventies were an unbelievably rich period for a cinema and
that to expect any film produced in today's dead and empty American
film culture to 'outdo' something produced then is to court
disappointment. Not that any of this is an excuse for simply rehashing
Tarkovsky, if that's what Soderberg has done. Better not to have
bothered at all.

dc

unread,
Dec 4, 2002, 11:23:50 AM12/4/02
to
BTW, do you really think that Cameron and Soderberg could 'outdo'
Tarkovsky?<<<<<<<<<<<

They certainly have the resources to have done anything they had wanted with
the film. They didn't sell out but they also didn't try to make a stab at a
cosmic work of art either. I liked Tarkovsky's Solaris, but mostly for the
bizarre photography.


>>>>>Come to think of it, could anyone, let alone that pair? I
don't know what you mean by 'this day and age' either: it strikes me
that the seventies were an unbelievably rich period for a cinema and
that to expect any film produced in today's dead and empty American
film culture to 'outdo' something produced then is to court
disappointment. <<<<<<<<<<<<


I mean that in "this day and age," the technical possibilities are
incredible--the greater CGI possibilities and they just didn't take
advantage of it. For instance the scenes of the planet in the original film
are a bit crude special effect and in this new one the planet scenes are
better---but not much. It seems they were trying to be to true to the
original, which to me ended up bland---like a severely cut down version of
the original. Its probably a much better film if one has not seen the
original or read the novel---but still it is such a "little," film for 47
million.


>>>Not that any of this is an excuse for simply rehashing
Tarkovsky, if that's what Soderberg has done. Better not to have
bothered at all.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

exactly-----either make a original version full blown using today's tech,
and give it new twists or forget it. Thats why I left feeling like I had
just seen a restrained TV adaptation of the original film. Its not a
terrible film like Sphere or Event Horizon--not at all--but it totally does
not live up to the potential. It is like someone redoing 2001 and trying to
make it accessible to people and much shorter so the masses don't get
bored.....WHY would one do that?

dc


Matthew Dickinson

unread,
Dec 4, 2002, 8:01:10 PM12/4/02
to
ptong...@aol.com (Peter Tonguette) wrote in message news:<20021202154200...@mb-fa.aol.com>...

> I guess all of these films fall into the categories of "hard sells"... even the
> Kubrick-cut trailer for "Full Metal Jacket" is seriously disappointing and I
> wonder what I would have made of it back in 1987...
>

Really? That's one of my favorite trailers. It's a small, perfected
work of art in itself. It has a wonderful stark, spare, tough, raw,
understated and, yeah, beautiful quality to it, just like the movie. I
like the way it flows and moves... (maybe it's strange I've watched it
so many times?) I like how dry and flat Joker's Ann Margret (sp) joke
falls. And I like that it leaves the entire boot camp section a
surprise and shock for first time viewers. And Vivian's music works
wonderfully. I suppose the "getting butts in the seats" factor is not
so good, but I think if he made it more exciting and alluring it would
have been untrue to the movie.

Matthew

Matthew Dickinson

unread,
Dec 4, 2002, 11:22:26 PM12/4/02
to
I enjoyed this film. I'd bet this is as good as Soderbergh can do.
It's his most important work. He's tried really hard with this one.
But I don't think he's very talented at anything. I think he kind of
knows this, too.

Some people have said this film should be applauded just because it's
so rare for a science fiction film to be serious, profound,
philosophical, intellectual, etc. But I always think works of art
should be judged in comparison to the entire world's art history and
not just their relative value to what else is out that week or month.

I don't think this film would be receiving as nearly as rave of
reviews if the dead wife wasn't so beautiful and unusual looking.

I never like Soderbergh's photography and I do not see why it
continually gets such high praise. If it was photographed by an
unknown person it wouldn't get much praise. I think the film looks a
little better in the trailer before many of the scenes were drained of
their color and vivacity by Soderbergh's computers. There's not a
single image in this film that's as good as just about any in
Tarkovsky's version. I guess my favorite image was the diagonal
backwards tracking shot of Clooney walking through a crowd on Earth.

I don't really know how to articulate this, but Americans have such a
terrible culture or lack thereof. Few people develop much character
and complexity these days. Even a mere 30 years ago things were
dramatically different. Nowadays everyone grows up to be very bland,
simple and generic and that means whatever artists we produce will
also be bland and simple and generic, as well as the actors they use
and the characters these actors play. And this shows in this new
version of Solaris. If it was made 30 years ago it would be richer and
deeper and more complex, and with stronger characters, not just
because the art culture was better then but because the nation's
culture as a whole was better.

People should stop comparing both versions of Solaris to 2001. About
the only thing they have in common is that they both take place in
outer space.

I've seen the film twice now but not much of it sticks in my memory.
Isn't that always a bad sign?

The film sort of... kind of... strives for spiritual heights...
perhaps it reaches them to a degree in its ending, but it's nowhere
close to what Tarkovsky achieved in all of his movies, if these two
should be compared.

The scientific concepts in the film are glossed over and taken for
granted as if to say that American audiences don't need to hear much
scientific explanation in order to believe that such implausible
things have scientific and rational grounding. You certainly don't
find this in Tarkovsky's version: the science in that is examined,
questioned, and made evident that it cannot explain everything.

The best thing this movie has going for it is the experience of the
"uncanny" which is does enjoyably enough, though not as great as
Tarkovsky's version or The Shining or Ugetsu or even a good episode of
Unsolved Mysteries. I'm talking about what Freud talks about in his
essay on the subject:
http://www.westga.edu/~pmorgan/gothic/freud_uncanny.html. "Many people
experience the feeling [of the uncanny] in the highest degree in
relation to death and dead bodies, to the return of the dead, and to
spirits and ghosts...."

Regarding the ending... I don't think one should surrender their life
to a blatant illusion even if it brings great happiness, especially
when knowing death is in store for them in doing so. This meaningless
and sick philosophical mood that only our subjective reality matters
and there is no objective or spiritual reality to believe in... is
becoming increasingly popular and that bothers the hell out of me.
(Vanilla Sky, Fight Club, A Beautiful Mind, American Beauty and others
I can't think of off the top of my head are similar in this regard,
but that's just the movies...) I mean shouldn't I be disturbed when
the two main characters no longer care whether they're dead or alive,
nor whether they're going to die soon? Is that how I'm supposed to
feel? Some people say it's a happy ending so I am confused...

Matthew

Jan

unread,
Dec 5, 2002, 4:47:41 AM12/5/02
to
cthor...@worldnet.att.net (Thornhill) wrote in message news:<ded391d8.02112...@posting.google.com>...
> Oh, no!!

The best review I've seen so far is:
http://www.chiafilm.com/solaris.html

It caught two of my major complaints about the film much better than
I'd able to articulate it: the dreadful Hollywood mating dance and the
ending designed to foster pointless discussions about irrelevancies.

Jan Bielawski

dutch_angle

unread,
Dec 5, 2002, 6:10:23 AM12/5/02
to
> > Kubrick-cut trailer for "Full Metal Jacket" is seriously disappointing and I
> > wonder what I would have made of it back in 1987...
> >
>
> Really? That's one of my favorite trailers. It's a small, perfected
> work of art in itself. It has a wonderful stark, spare, tough, raw,
> understated and, yeah, beautiful quality to it, just like the movie. I
> like the way it flows and moves... (maybe it's strange I've watched it
> so many times?) I like how dry and flat Joker's Ann Margret (sp) joke
> falls. And I like that it leaves the entire boot camp section a
> surprise and shock for first time viewers. And Vivian's music works
> wonderfully. I suppose the "getting butts in the seats" factor is not
> so good, but I think if he made it more exciting and alluring it would
> have been untrue to the movie.


Totally agree.
The trailer for The Shining is also a masterpiece.
And EWS teaser; that was very very funny and brave, if you consider
the world's expectations; a masterful choice.

These are so much better than the trailers for both Gosford Park
(Rules of the Game Meets Hercule Poirot) and Solaris (Always Meets The
Sixth Sense Meets Sphere). Although the "social critique" of Gosford
Park was rather 2D, thin and predictable, I enjoyed the ensemble.
Solaris was just the extended trailer...

I also like this trailer:
http://www.apple.com/trailers/miramax/comedian.html

d.a.

Leonard F. Wheat

unread,
Dec 5, 2002, 4:46:54 PM12/5/02
to
cthor...@worldnet.att.net (Thornhill) wrote in message news:<ded391d8.02112...@posting.google.com>...
> Oh, no!!

Calling Steven Soderbergh's film version of Stanislaw Lem's
Solaris disappointing would understate the point. The truth is, the
movie is awful. Lem's novel had a science fiction emphasis that
revolved around an intelligent, living "sentient ocean" on the planet
Solaris. Solaris was in another solar system, one with two suns. The
novel's focus was on how man would react to an intelligent being that
is not anthropomorphic and whose nature and behavior man can't
comprehend. A romantic subplot served the main plot by illustrating a
facet of the ocean's behavior--the ocean's own reaction to humans that
it, in turn, couldn't comprehend. That reaction was the ocean's acts
of creating physical replicas ("visitors") of things it perceived in
the minds of the humans. The plot's main replica was an active,
intelligent, self-aware copy of the hero's (Kris Kelvin's) dead wife,
who had committed suicide ten years earlier.

Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 film version of Solaris downplayed (but kept)
the science fiction, emphasized the love story and the related
religio-philosophical idea that love heals, and created a second
subplot involving estrangement and reconciliation between Kelvin and
his father. The new subplot required a prologue, which had
considerable material not in the novel. This prologue was the
foundation for a plot twist at the end.

Lem was appalled by the liberties Tarkovsky had taken with the
novel. According to Lem, Tarkovsky "didn't make Solaris at all, he
made Crime and Punishment." The crime is Kelvin's failure to
recognize and thwart his wife's suicidal impulses; the punishment is
agonizing pangs of conscience. Lem was also turned off by the film's
visually clever but substantively corrupt ending, which he called
"just totally awful." This ending, besides reintroducing Kelvin's
father, transforms an uncomprehending ocean into its antithesis: an
entity that is comprehending, sympathetic, and supposedly helpful.
Lem: "My Kelvin decides to stay on the planet without any hope
whatsoever, while Tarkovsky created an image . . . [that is] just some
emotional sauce."

Steven Soderbergh's 2001 film virtually eliminates the science
fiction, keeping only the sci-fi setting and the "visitors." The
sentient ocean is gone; it is now the planet itself that displays
mental and physical powers. What we get in place of science fiction
is a dreary, dialogue-laden love story with a silly, sappy ending. In
effect if not literally, this ending transforms Solaris into a ghost
story, complete with a metaphorical heaven. And, as if that weren't
bad enough, Soderbergh's ending does something truly appalling: it
romanticizes suicide.

A more detailed comparison of Lem's novel, Tarkovsky's 1972 film, and
Soderbergh's 2002 remake will make my points clearer. Spoiler's
follow, so if you haven't seen the films you might want to cut out
now.

LEM'S NOVEL

The centerpiece of Lem's novel is the planet's sentient ocean. This
ocean not only has (a) sensory powers, it has (b) an incredibly high
level of mathematical intelligence (it can perform calculations
necessary to control its own orbit within a binary star system, a
system that should create orbital instability), (c) the power to
manipulate matter into physical forms, (d) the power to read (but not
truly comprehend) human minds, (d) the aforementioned the power to
alter its orbit in ways that defy natural gravitational and
centrifugal forces (a power analogous to mobility), and apparently (e)
consciousness.

Earth sends scientists to Solaris to study the planet. They live in
a space station that roams the sky above Solaris. While they sleep
the ocean reads their minds, or at least the darkest corners thereof.
From what it finds (apparently without comprehending), the ocean
creates for each scientist that "visitor"--a living replica of a
person from the scientist's past who is a source of shame or
humiliation. In Kelvin's case, the visitor is his dead wife, whose
suicide was facilitated by Kelvin's behavior. In the case of
Gibarian, a second scientist whose visitor drove him to suicide, the
visitor is an obese, bare-breasted, grass-skirted Negress. She
alternately walks the halls and lies with Gibarian's frozen corpse.
Most likely she was a sexual fetish, hence a source of profound
embarrassment--embarrassment that drove Gibarian to suicide. (The
idea behind these visitors probably comes from the 1956 sci-fi film
Forbidden Planet. That film featured "monsters from the id.")

The surviving scientists eventually find a way to get rid of the
visitors: the scientists build a "neutrino disruptor" that
destabilizes the nonatomic material structure of the visitors. But by
then the visitors have served their two purposes--illustrating the
nature and power of the ocean and giving the plot what little life it
has. The scientists then decide to return to earth. But Kelvin takes
a "flitter" craft on a last-minute exploratory flight over the planet.
What he finds changes his mind about leaving: he decides to stay
despite the absence of any real hope of ever comprehending the ocean.

Lem's novel has a lot in common with Arthur Clarke's Rendezvous with
Rama. Both novels are long on description of "scientific" finds and
short on plot. In Clarke's novel, the long descriptive passages deal
with technology. This technology is embodied in a coasting space ship
that enters the solar system, loops around the sun, and then restarts
its engines for the trip back to wherever it came from. Earth
scientists enter the spaceship and explore it before it departs. The
novel describes what they see. In Lem's novel the descriptive
passages deal with Solaris' ocean and with theories about that ocean.
The ocean is the analog of the spaceship Rama's technology. After a
while, the descriptions in both novels become boring. Both novels
need more plot.

TARKOVSKY'S 1972 FILM

Tarkovsky obviously recognized the plot limitations of Lem's novel
and set out to spice things up a bit. He did this by shoving the
science fiction into the background and spotlighting the relationship
(described partly in flashbacks) between Kelvin and wife. She had
killed herself ten years earlier but is reconstituted by the ocean as
a "visitor." Tarkovsky introduces a whole lot more pathos in the
relationship than you find in the novel. In Lem's words, "what we get
in the film is only how this abominable Kelvin has driven poor Harey
[his wife] to suicide and then he has pangs of conscience, which are
amplified by her appearance [on Solaris]." This mental agony is not at
all entertaining, and neither is it science fiction. It is simply an
abortive (in my case, at least) attempt to play on our heartstrings
with a lot of emotional drivel.

Tarkovsky probably realized that he could get only so far plotwise
with the husband-and-wife subplot, so he created that second subplot.
The new subplot begins in the prologue, back on earth. Kris has a
falling out with his elderly father. The conflict is so poorly
handled by Tarkovsky that I didn't realize anything serious had
occurred until I read in a review that Kris and his father had become
estranged. The writer presumably inferred this from the ending,
because all we see in the prologue is that Kris is skeptical about a
certain detail of an account by Berton, an astronaut, of what Berton
saw on Solaris. Berton is offended. He is an old friend of Kris's
father, so when Berton takes offense, the father also takes offense.
But this conflict didn't strike me as anything more than a
run-of-the-mill disagreement. I perceived no estrangement.

The prologue also hints that the father is terminally ill. The
father says to Kelvin, who is departing for Solaris, "Are you jealous
that he [Berton], not you, will bury me?" The point here is that, if
and when Kelvin returns to earth, it will be too late to reconcile
with his father.

Skip to the ending: SPOILER COMING UP. We see Kris preparing to
leave Solaris and return to earth with the other two surviving
scientists. (Gibarian, who committed suicide, is the nonsurvivor.)
Then we see Kris, apparently back on earth, outside his father's rural
cottage. It is raining. Kris looks in through the window and sees
water from a leaky roof--a roof that was not leaky during rain in the
prologue--dripping into the room. (What sort of symbolism is this?
Is the cottage weeping?) The father comes out. Kris falls on his
knees and grasps his father. He has been given the chance to make
amends with his father, a chance that he was denied with his wife.
The camera then pulls slowly away from the scene, climbing higher and
higher into the sky. And as the visible landscape gradually expands,
we see that the farm, the cottage, and the father are on a tiny island
on Solaris. They are creations of the sentient ocean.

Any sentimental satisfaction or esthetic appreciation evoked by this
final scene disappears when you reflect on it. The father is no more
real than Kris's reconstituted wife was. If the simulated wife was
inadequate for genuine amends, why should the simulated father somehow
be adequate? Even worse, Kris is a prisoner, incarcerated on an
island. He will be devoid of human contact, apart from contact with
his artificial father, for the rest of his life. He can't visit old
friends, make new ones, or even enjoy stimulating conversations with
colleagues or strangers. No travel, no trips to town, no music or
radio, no other entertainment, no books, no scientific work. He can't
even go for a decent walk, because the island is at most a city block
in diameter. To repeat, Kris is a prisoner, confined in a tiny
compound. Tarkovsky may think this ending is uplifting, but I found
it depressing. And still a poor substitute for a genuine plot.

SODERBERGH'S 2001 FILM

Like Tarkovsky, Soderbergh recognizes that turning Lem's novel into a
film requires more plot than Lem provided. And he wants to be
original. Well, not really original, but different from Tarkovsky.
So Soderbergh almost totally abandons the science fiction and turns
the story into a three-way cross between a soap opera, a Hollywood
tear-jerker, and a ghost story embellished with an analogical heaven.
Tarkovsky's "Crime and Punishment" becomes Soderbergh's "Crime and
Reward." MORE SPOILERS COMING UP.

As in the novel and Tarkovsky's film, Gibarian has already committed
suicide before Kris' arrival; only two of the station's three
scientists greet Kris. One of them, Snow, is an irritatingly
implausible neobeatnik with a flip attitude toward just about
everything. The other, Helen Gordon, is a woman; her chief function
is to provide today's obligatory gender balance in the crew. (She
replaces a male scientist from the two earlier versions.) Soon Kris
is visited by his reconstituted dead wife. He sends her off in a
space capsule, but the planet recreates her once more. Imitating her
human progenitor, she then tries suicide (drinking liquid nitrogen),
but she is regenerated a third time. Finally, the neutrino disruptor
gets rid of her, supposedly for good.

The ending again finds Kris remaining on Solaris. But this isn't the
real Kris. This Kris is another of the ocean's replicants, a
"visitor" with no human to haunt. Soderbergh prepares us for this
revelation by introducing a second plot twist. Just before the end we
learn that Snow is really a replicant. He killed the real Snow before
Kris arrived. Thus do we learn that the ocean creates copies not only
of shame-inducing persons from the scientists' pasts (those monsters
from the id) but of the scientists themselves. And when Kris dies,
the ocean creates a new Kris.

We next see the artificial Kris with his wife, who has been recreated
a fourth time. The two replicants are going to live happily ever
after on Solaris in a physical replica of their apartment back on
earth. Kris and his wife, as mere reproductions, are the equivalent
of ghosts, reembodiments of dead persons. The star-crossed lovers are
being given a second chance--as ghosts. They have been reunited in a
metaphorical heaven. They will enjoy a happily-ever-after life beyond
the grave.

I'm sorry, Mr. Soderbergh, but ghost stories and visions of heaven
are no substitute for science fiction. A romantic subplot is not
objectionable. What is objectionable is the attempt to palm off as
science fiction an idiotic love story that is basically out of touch
with Lem's novel.

Just as objectionable is a hero who commits suicide. The "neutrino
disruptor" the scientists build to get rid of the visitors drains the
space station's power supply. The station's anti-gravity machinery
begins to fail, and the station starts falling slowly toward the
planet. Kris and the other surviving scientist, Gordon, will be
killed unless they get into their return-to-earth spacecraft and
hightail it out of there. Gordon gets in. But Kris has a last-moment
change of heart. He decides to stay behind and die. Make no mistake,
this is suicide, not some unfortunate error in judgment. Kris fully
understands that staying behind means death. He deliberately chooses
death. That is, he decides to commit suicide.

Don't be deceived by what happens next. Yes, Kris comes back as what
amounts to his ghost and is happily reunited with what amounts to his
wife's ghost. But he didn't know, and had no way of knowing, this was
going to happen. Kris had no inkling that, by staying behind, he
would be reconstituted as another artificial being. Much less did he
know that his wife would be reconstituted once more and would be there
to greet him with open arms. All Kris knew was that he was ending his
life, deliberately. He was committing suicide.

I have no admiration or empathy for heroes who commit suicide. Mind
you, we're not talking about sacrificing oneself for a cause or to
save someone else. We're talking about death for death's sake,
genuine suicide. Soderbergh may choose to glorify suicide by
pretending it leads to happiness. But don't expect me to buy that
line. There's nothing romantic about suicide. Give me a hero who has
the courage to face life, take his lumps, and uphold his professional
responsibilities.

Peter Tonguette

unread,
Dec 5, 2002, 6:45:47 PM12/5/02
to
Leonard F. Wheat wrote:

[Good Lord, am I writing these words again?]

>I have no admiration or empathy for heroes who commit suicide. Mind
>you, we're not talking about sacrificing oneself for a cause or to
>save someone else. We're talking about death for death's sake,
>genuine suicide. Soderbergh may choose to glorify suicide by
>pretending it leads to happiness. But don't expect me to buy that
>line. There's nothing romantic about suicide. Give me a hero who has
>the courage to face life, take his lumps, and uphold his professional
>responsibilities.

I have several problems with this view.

For one, you appear to want characters in art to solicit your admiration or
empathy instead of being truthful or realistic. In other words, you want what
so many critics of Kubrick want: characters who don't reflect a reality, but
who appeal to the audience. I have no problems with characters in art who
don't reflect my own personal life views, including ones who commit "genuine
suicide" or those who "deliberately choose death." Jesus.

For two, Soderbergh is >not< glorifying Kelvin's choice; it was a choice of
desperation, hopelessness to stay behind while Gordon exits the pod. Isn't it
painfully clear that the "life" Kelvin leads after death is counterfeit?
Kelvin's suicide was an act of tragic desperation and hopelessness; he would
rather die - with the possibility of being reunited with a "fake" Rheya (I'm
not fully decided myself if this thought entered Kelvin's head, though,
obviously, I'm leaning towards the interpretation that it did) - than live
without any "version" of her. He has been "seduced," to use Gordon's term, by
this projection of his wife and finds life without "it" unbearable.

I grant you that there's a superficial uplift in the film's closing scene,
because Kelvin really >is< happy (wouldn't anyone?), but all one has to do is
look at the scene in context to see how tragic it is. Kelvin has abandoned
reality for an illusion. All that his act has been "rewarded" with is a
comforting phantasm.

(By the way, Soderbergh's "2001 film" was released in 2002.)

Peter

Josh

unread,
Dec 5, 2002, 9:45:14 PM12/5/02
to
>Soderberg has
>always struck me as the opposite of an auteur, every film different,
>no consistent vision

I've never had much use for the debate over what is or isn't an auteur. One of
the reasons I like Soderbergh is that he doesn't repeat himself, much like
Kubrick never did. Unlike someone like Spielberg, who I love, but has made a
lot of upscale monster movies, or Scorsese, who's made a lot of gangster
movies.

Josh

unread,
Dec 5, 2002, 9:50:34 PM12/5/02
to
>I enjoyed this film. I'd bet this is as good as Soderbergh can do.
>It's his most important work. He's tried really hard with this one.

I think "Traffic" is probably his most important work, though I did love
Solaris.

>But I don't think he's very talented at anything. I think he kind of
>knows this, too.

I disagree. I think he's very talented, and I know he doesn't have an
overinflated ego, but I don't think he thinks of himself as a moron.

>I never like Soderbergh's photography and I do not see why it
>continually gets such high praise.

I happen to love his photography. I love his choices for when he wants
something handheld or steadicam, when he wants it static, or on a crane or
dolly. I love how he plays with color to visually represent mood, I love how
in Traffic he used a variety of film stocks to distinguish the different
locales and sections of the film.

Josh

unread,
Dec 5, 2002, 10:03:46 PM12/5/02
to
> Soderbergh may choose to glorify suicide by
>pretending it leads to happiness.

What makes you think suicide is being glorified here?

Leonard F. Wheat

unread,
Dec 6, 2002, 9:13:06 AM12/6/02
to
ptong...@aol.com (Peter Tonguette) wrote in message news:<20021205184547...@mb-fg.aol.com>...

> Leonard F. Wheat wrote:

> >I have no admiration or empathy for heroes who commit suicide. Mind
> >you, we're not talking about sacrificing oneself for a cause or to
> >save someone else. We're talking about death for death's sake,
> >genuine suicide. Soderbergh may choose to glorify suicide by
> >pretending it leads to happiness. But don't expect me to buy that
> >line. There's nothing romantic about suicide. Give me a hero who has
> >the courage to face life, take his lumps, and uphold his professional
> >responsibilities.
>
> I have several problems with this view.
>
> For one, you appear to want characters in art to solicit your admiration or
> empathy instead of being truthful or realistic.

If Kelvin's suicide is "truthful" and "realistic," it is only because
people sometimes do commit suicide and that's what Soderbergh's script
called for. The script would have been just as truthful and realistic
if Kelvin had gone back to earth. In the last analysis, then, your
"realism" criterion is meaningless, because it can justify anything
short of absurdity.



> For two, Soderbergh is >not< glorifying Kelvin's choice; it was a choice of
> desperation, hopelessness to stay behind while Gordon exits the pod.

You're looking at the wrong scene. What glorifies Kelvin's choice is
not some feeling of hopelessness that drives him to suicide. It is
Soderbergh's decision to transform the tragedy of suicide into the joy
of an afterlife with his wife in a metaphorical heaven. That ending
does indeed glorify and romanticize suicide. The ending is not
tragic, it's corny--pure Hollywood fluff.

> Isn't it
> painfully clear that the "life" Kelvin leads after death is counterfeit?

I'm happy to see YOU acknowledging that Kelvin's life after death is
"counterfeit," but that obviously isn't what Soderbergh intended to
suggest. Intelligent people like you can think through the
implications of the cornball ending, but Soderbergh was playing to the
masses. His ending was clearly intended to be the equivalent of
Gordon MacRae's expiating his sin and making it to heaven at the end
of Carousel. It was intended to be uplifting, happy. A joyous
resurrection overcomes a tragic death. The ending glorified suicide.



> I grant you that there's a superficial uplift in the film's closing scene,
> because Kelvin really >is< happy (wouldn't anyone?), but all one has to do is
> look at the scene in context to see how tragic it is. Kelvin has abandoned
> reality for an illusion.

Reflect for a moment on Soderbergh's ridiculous Sistine Chapel scene,
where a surrogate God (played by a juvenile!) bestows angelhood on
Kelvin. That's not tragedy. That's comedy--in both the Dantean sense
(happy ending) and the modern sense (humorous) of the word.

As for what you call "illusion," it isn't illusion at all where the
script is concerned. The reunion in heaven is reality.

I guess this all goes to prove that one man's (your) sauce is another
man's (my) poison.

> (By the way, Soderbergh's "2001 film" was released in 2002.)

Yup, I know. I got it right the first time: "A more detailed


comparison of Lem's novel, Tarkovsky's 1972 film, and Soderbergh's

2002 remake will make my points clearer." The next two times, where I
wrote "2001," Kubrick's film surfaced and guided my fourth finger to
the wrong key.

Funny, but you missed my other boner. I said that "the ocean" brought
Kelvin back to life. But the sentient ocean is found only in Lem's
novel and Tarkovsky's film. In Soderbergh's film there is no ocean.
It is Solaris, the planet, that is creating ghosts.

Peter Tonguette

unread,
Dec 6, 2002, 2:01:41 PM12/6/02
to
Leonard F. Wheat wrote:

>If Kelvin's suicide is "truthful" and "realistic," it is only because
>people sometimes do commit suicide and that's what Soderbergh's script
>called for. The script would have been just as truthful and realistic
>if Kelvin had gone back to earth. In the last analysis, then, your
>"realism" criterion is meaningless, because it can justify anything
>short of absurdity.

By this logic then, why prefer one "realistic" choice over another equally
"realistic" choice? Why would you have preferred Kelvin to go back on earth
apart from the fact you can admire that behavior and can't admire Kelvin
commiting "genuine suicide"? That isn't a good enough reason for me to dismiss
a character's actions. A better question might be whether those actions felt
truthful to >the character<. In my opinion, Kelvin "giving up" after losing
Rheya2 and allowing himself to plummet to Solaris didn't feel like a betrayal
of the character.

>> Isn't it
>> painfully clear that the "life" Kelvin leads after death is counterfeit?
>
>I'm happy to see YOU acknowledging that Kelvin's life after death is
>"counterfeit," but that obviously isn't what Soderbergh intended to
>suggest. Intelligent people like you can think through the
>implications of the cornball ending, but Soderbergh was playing to the
>masses. His ending was clearly intended to be the equivalent of
>Gordon MacRae's expiating his sin and making it to heaven at the end
>of Carousel. It was intended to be uplifting, happy. A joyous
>resurrection overcomes a tragic death. The ending glorified suicide.

I can understand why someone would reach this conclusion. I do not deny that
there's a greater feeling of happiness in this final scene than any other scene
in the film. But to my mind, this is the masterstroke of the film: to give
Kelvin the happy ending he wants, while providing just enough distance for
thoughtful viewers to decipher how tragic this supposed happy ending is. Why
is it tragic?

For one, I view anyone giving up life for death, as Kelvin does, as basically
tragic. For two, what Kelvin had given up life >for< is, as I've said, a
patent illusion, albeit a deeply comforting one. For three, the ending shows
Kelvin >still< unable to deal with his dead wife's complications and
contradictions; he's happy because he's reunited with Rheya2, the projection of
his memories, and not the complex woman (what woman isn't?) that was his wife.
This doesn't make Kelvin a bad person. It makes him a version of what, to
greater or lesser degrees, we all are: people who want "mirrors," to invoke a
line in the film which has direct bearing here, in our relationships instead of
actual other people.

The very fact that the character sees all of this as a "happy ending" just
makes it more melancholy for me.

>> I grant you that there's a superficial uplift in the film's closing scene,
>> because Kelvin really >is< happy (wouldn't anyone?), but all one has to
>do is
>> look at the scene in context to see how tragic it is. Kelvin has abandoned
>> reality for an illusion.
>
>Reflect for a moment on Soderbergh's ridiculous Sistine Chapel scene,
>where a surrogate God (played by a juvenile!) bestows angelhood on
>Kelvin. That's not tragedy. That's comedy--in both the Dantean sense
>(happy ending) and the modern sense (humorous) of the word.
>
>As for what you call "illusion," it isn't illusion at all where the
>script is concerned. The reunion in heaven is reality.

Well, I would take issue that it's literally "heaven," if that's what you mean.
For starters, I just don't see it in terms of the film. The ship plummets to
Solaris. The following scenes have Kelvin in an "enviroment" which replicates
his home on earth - we can assume this "enviroment" is generated by Solaris, as
we see the ship (and Kelvin) heading towards it and not their souls drifting up
to heaven. Rheya2 then approaches him; this, too, would support the idea that
they are on Solaris, as a character mentions earlier in the film that the
"visitors" need to go back to where they "came from" (Solaris). I grant you
that there's "religious" imagery in some of these sequences, but I'd be careful
about taking it too literally especially since...

Soderbergh is an avowed atheist, so I find it highly unlikely that he would
literally intend for viewers to read the final scene as taking place in
"heaven." The alternative I've suggested - that they are inhabiting Solaris
after their deaths - may strike you as just as mystical, but at least it's
consistent with the film's logic.

Peter

dutch_angle

unread,
Dec 6, 2002, 4:46:58 PM12/6/02
to
See if I can copy Arrogance, capital A:

> [Good Lord, am I writing these words again?]

[Yes, you are like the Messias; it is so wonderful that you are
willing to write these words again. Thanks. Jesus! We're not worthy.
Amen.]


>
> >I have no admiration or empathy for heroes who commit suicide. Mind
> >you, we're not talking about sacrificing oneself for a cause or to
> >save someone else. We're talking about death for death's sake,
> >genuine suicide. Soderbergh may choose to glorify suicide by
> >pretending it leads to happiness. But don't expect me to buy that
> >line. There's nothing romantic about suicide. Give me a hero who has
> >the courage to face life, take his lumps, and uphold his professional
> >responsibilities.
>
> I have several problems with this view.
>
> For one, you appear to want characters in art to solicit your admiration or
> empathy instead of being truthful or realistic. In other words, you want what
> so many critics of Kubrick want: characters who don't reflect a reality, but
> who appeal to the audience.

For one, you are making assumptions.
In other words: try asking questions first.

> I have no problems with characters in art who
> don't reflect my own personal life views, including ones who commit "genuine
> suicide" or those who "deliberately choose death."

Wow, outstanding view you have.
There might be a chance that this goes for Mr Wheat too, don't you
think?

> Jesus.

Yes, son, what's up?

> For two, Soderbergh is >not< glorifying Kelvin's choice; it was a choice of
> desperation, hopelessness to stay behind while Gordon exits the pod.

For two, it's the choice of a very clever Hollywood screenwriter who
certainly doesn't feel any desperation or hopelessness.

For three, this choice of desperation and hopelessness wasn't really
developed that well, was it? It was rather flat and thin and
two-dimensional and predictable.


> Isn't it
> painfully clear that the "life" Kelvin leads after death is counterfeit?

Especially painful, yes. Poor cinema is always very painful.

> Kelvin's suicide was an act of tragic desperation and hopelessness; he would
> rather die - with the possibility of being reunited with a "fake" Rheya (I'm
> not fully decided myself if this thought entered Kelvin's head, though,
> obviously, I'm leaning towards the interpretation that it did) - than live
> without any "version" of her. He has been "seduced," to use Gordon's term, by
> this projection of his wife and finds life without "it" unbearable.

So that's how clever Soderbergh the Chameleon is; it's the Arty
Hollywood Happy Tragic Ending.

I think Soderbergh found the ending without the Kelvin-Rheya-Reunion
unbearable, so he came up with this wonderful compromise. He certainly
has fooled you.


> I grant you that there's a superficial uplift in the film's closing scene,
> because Kelvin really >is< happy (wouldn't anyone?), but all one has to do is
> look at the scene in context to see how tragic it is.

I grant you that this supposed superficial uplift in the film's
closing scene is as clever as the ending of A.I. Solaris is not only a
Hollywood-redo of Solaris, it's copying A.I.'s ending and Solaris'
overall intelligence is like Spielberg's Always, though instead of
being just an innocent fantasy-comedy it's a really false and
arty-farty flick.
All one has to do is look at Soderbergh's copypaste habit, without
ever throwing in any new or deep personal insights and view on the
novel's complex themes to see how dreadfully tragic this kind of
fake-cinema is.

> Kelvin has abandoned
> reality for an illusion. All that his act has been "rewarded" with is a
> comforting phantasm.

It seems you have abandoned reality for an illusion. It often happens
to people who think they are the only ones who provide the deep
insights. What you analyse out of Soderbergh's Solaris is painfully
obvious and a real example of this film's total idealess shamefull
copypaste-way of making movies.
It is your view that is not comforting, though it really reads like a
phantasm.



> (By the way, Soderbergh's "2001 film" was released in 2002.)

This much is true. Bravo.


So much for copying Arrogance, capital A...
Leave that up to me.

I think Mr Wheat provided some good info.

d.a.

dutch_angle

unread,
Dec 6, 2002, 6:53:23 PM12/6/02
to
> I do not deny that
> there's a greater feeling of happiness in this final scene than any other scene
> in the film. But to my mind, this is the masterstroke of the film: to give
> Kelvin the happy ending he wants, while providing just enough distance for
> thoughtful viewers to decipher how tragic this supposed happy ending is. Why
> is it tragic?

Because it isn't.
It's a commercial compromise, not quite a masterstroke.
Soderbergh's Solaris provides just enough for thoughtful viewers to
understand that.


>
> For one, I view anyone giving up life for death, as Kelvin does, as basically
> tragic.

For one, I would view any director that really develops this in a
challenging philosophical and cinematic way, with personal vision and
depth, as basically inspiring.
Soderbergh is no such director. Tarkovsky is.


> For two, what Kelvin had given up life >for< is, as I've said, a
> patent illusion, albeit a deeply comforting one.

For two, this view is painfully obvious.
Tarkovsky didn't compromise, Soderbergh did.

> For three, the ending shows
> Kelvin >still< unable to deal with his dead wife's complications and
> contradictions; he's happy because he's reunited with Rheya2, the projection of
> his memories, and not the complex woman (what woman isn't?) that was his wife.

Do you say the same about Spielberg's A.I.?

For three, this view on Soderbergh's way of ending his redo of Solaris
is for the simpleminded; that is what your analysis makes clear.


> This doesn't make Kelvin a bad person. It makes him a version of what, to
> greater or lesser degrees, we all are: people who want "mirrors," to invoke a
> line in the film which has direct bearing here, in our relationships instead of
> actual other people.

This makes Soderbergh a bad person.
Or no, make that: a simple person.


>
> The very fact that the character sees all of this as a "happy ending" just
> makes it more melancholy for me.

Do you think the same of Spielberg's A.I. ending?


>
> >> I grant you that there's a superficial uplift in the film's closing scene,
> >> because Kelvin really >is< happy (wouldn't anyone?), but all one has to
> do is
> >> look at the scene in context to see how tragic it is. Kelvin has abandoned
> >> reality for an illusion.
> >
> >Reflect for a moment on Soderbergh's ridiculous Sistine Chapel scene,
> >where a surrogate God (played by a juvenile!) bestows angelhood on
> >Kelvin. That's not tragedy. That's comedy--in both the Dantean sense
> >(happy ending) and the modern sense (humorous) of the word.
> >
> >As for what you call "illusion," it isn't illusion at all where the
> >script is concerned. The reunion in heaven is reality.
>
> Well, I would take issue that it's literally "heaven," if that's what you mean.

Well, to me it certainly feels like a Spielberg heaven, because that
is what I mean.


> For starters, I just don't see it in terms of the film. The ship plummets to
> Solaris. The following scenes have Kelvin in an "enviroment" which replicates
> his home on earth - we can assume this "enviroment" is generated by Solaris, as
> we see the ship (and Kelvin) heading towards it and not their souls drifting up
> to heaven.

For starters, I would see all of this as Disneyesk.
All sounds like A.I. again.


> Rheya2 then approaches him; this, too, would support the idea that
> they are on Solaris, as a character mentions earlier in the film that the
> "visitors" need to go back to where they "came from" (Solaris). I grant you
> that there's "religious" imagery in some of these sequences, but I'd be careful
> about taking it too literally especially since...

... we shouldn't take Soderbergh neither literal nor serious.


> Soderbergh is an avowed atheist, so I find it highly unlikely that he would
> literally intend for viewers to read the final scene as taking place in
> "heaven."

Soderbergh is an avowed copyist, so I find it highly likely that he
would literally intend to compromise the way he did with the final
scene.
Both Disney fans and "thoughtful" viewers are satisfied.

> The alternative I've suggested - that they are inhabiting Solaris
> after their deaths - may strike you as just as mystical, but at least it's
> consistent with the film's logic.

The film's only logic: Soderbergh in pseudo-artful-mode.
After all, his first name is Steven.


d.a.

Leonard F. Wheat

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Dec 6, 2002, 8:02:14 PM12/6/02
to
ptong...@aol.com (Peter Tonguette) wrote in message news:<20021206140141...@mb-bj.aol.com>...

> Leonard F. Wheat wrote:
>
> >If Kelvin's suicide is "truthful" and "realistic," it is only because
> >people sometimes do commit suicide and that's what Soderbergh's script
> >called for. The script would have been just as truthful and realistic
> >if Kelvin had gone back to earth. In the last analysis, then, your
> >"realism" criterion is meaningless, because it can justify anything
> >short of absurdity.
>
> By this logic then, why prefer one "realistic" choice over another equally
> "realistic" choice? Why would you have preferred Kelvin to go back on earth
> apart from the fact you can admire that behavior and can't admire Kelvin
> commiting "genuine suicide"? That isn't a good enough reason for me to
< dismiss a character's actions.

You're missing the point. You wrote that "you appear to want


characters in art to solicit your admiration or empathy instead of

being truthful or realistic." Here you are defending Soderberg's
ending on grounds that the first stage of the ending, namely, Kelvin's
decision to commit suicide, is realistic. I was merely pointing out
that realism isn't the issue, since it would also have been realistic
for Kelvin to go back to earth. You therefore can't justify the
ending on grounds of realism.

You further miss the point by assuming that my basic objection to the
ending is the suicide. Although I do object to the suicide, that
objection wasn't my essential point. What I objected to was the
glorification of suicide, Soderbergh's turning suicide into a romantic
experience. I was objection to an ending that was just so much
emotional pap.

Meanwhile, if realism is the criterion that YOU want to uphold, what
happens after Kelvin's suicide is not at all realistic. In real life,
suicide does not lead to happiness on the part of the victim. It
merely leads to death and oblivion. Neither does suicide lead to
reunion with loved ones, although I'll grant that those persons who
are religions AND believe in heaven (not all religious persons)
believe otherwise.

Now for your question, "Why would you have preferred Kelvin to go back


on earth
apart from the fact you can admire that behavior and can't admire
Kelvin

commiting 'genuine suicide'?" The preference I implied was for Kelvin
to reject suicide. Since staying in the falling station means death,
rejecting suicide does mean going back to earth, but returning to
earth wasn't my point. I would nevertheless be willing to make it a
point. Kelvin was sent to Solaris on a fact finding mission, and he
had a professional obligation to complete his mission (assuming that
was within his power, which it was).

The more important point, though, is that suicide should not be
glorified. Restoring a dead person to life and then rewarding him
with romantic bliss does glorify suicide. And whereas you defend
tragedy as an art form, that defense does not apply to this situation,
because there is no tragedy.

A fundamental problem with your analysis is that you are rewriting the
ending, offering us a "viewer's edit." You want to pretend that the
film ends with the shuttle heading back to earth, with Kelvin left
behind. That would indeed have been genuine tragedy, and allowable in
the name of art. But you've forgotten something, Peter: you don't
have an editor's license. You must base your argument on what really
happens in the story. What really happens is that Kelvin comes back
to life, is reunited with his wife, and enjoys a new life in a
metaphorical heaven. You can't ignore what happens after Kelvin
decides to give up his life.

It's a ghost story, Peter. A ghost story with heaven tacked on. It
isn't tragedy. It isn't realism. It's just a lot of emotional goo.



> >> Isn't it
> >> painfully clear that the "life" Kelvin leads after death is counterfeit?
> >
> >I'm happy to see YOU acknowledging that Kelvin's life after death is
> >"counterfeit," but that obviously isn't what Soderbergh intended to
> >suggest. Intelligent people like you can think through the
> >implications of the cornball ending, but Soderbergh was playing to the
> >masses. His ending was clearly intended to be the equivalent of
> >Gordon MacRae's expiating his sin and making it to heaven at the end
> >of Carousel. It was intended to be uplifting, happy. A joyous
> >resurrection overcomes a tragic death. The ending glorified suicide.

> I can understand why someone would reach this conclusion. I do not deny that
> there's a greater feeling of happiness in this final scene than any other > scene
> in the film. But to my mind, this is the masterstroke of the film: to give
> Kelvin the happy ending he wants, while providing just enough distance for
> thoughtful viewers to decipher how tragic this supposed happy ending is. Why
> is it tragic?
>
> For one, I view anyone giving up life for death, as Kelvin does, as basically
> tragic.

Giving up live may be tragic in real life but not in a fictional world
where death is merely a transition to another state, a state of bliss.

> For two, what Kelvin had given up life >for< is, as I've said, a
> patent illusion, albeit a deeply comforting one.

Again, you're confusing the real world with the fictional one. What
Kelvin gets in the fictional world is not an illusion at all. He has
actually been reconstituted as a material being, and so has Rheya.

> For three [the third reason the ending is tragic], the ending shows


> Kelvin >still< unable to deal with his dead wife's complications and
> contradictions; he's happy because he's reunited with Rheya2, the projection > of
> his memories, and not the complex woman (what woman isn't?) that was his wife.

Perhaps I've forgotten some detail of the final scene, but I recall
nothing suggesting that Kelvin was "still unable to deal with his
wife's complications." That seems to be just an assumption on your
point. One could just as easily assume that Kelvin now has a
determination to work out his differences. That shouldn't be too much
of a problem, because the chief difference is that she didn't tell him
she was sterile. Her sterility should no longer be an issue.



> >> I grant you that there's a superficial uplift in the film's closing scene,
> >> because Kelvin really >is< happy (wouldn't anyone?), but all one has to
> do is
> >> look at the scene in context to see how tragic it is. Kelvin has abandoned
> >> reality for an illusion.

> >Reflect for a moment on Soderbergh's ridiculous Sistine Chapel scene,
> >where a surrogate God (played by a juvenile!) bestows angelhood on
> >Kelvin. That's not tragedy. That's comedy--in both the Dantean sense
> >(happy ending) and the modern sense (humorous) of the word.

> >As for what you call "illusion," it isn't illusion at all where the
> >script is concerned. The reunion in heaven is reality.

> Well, I would take issue that it's literally "heaven," if that's what you > mean.

I didn't say the rematerialized apartment on Solaris was LITERALLY
heaven. I said, "In effect if NOT LITERALLY, this ending transforms
Solaris into a ghost story, complete with a METAPHORICAL heaven." I
later repeated the point: "They have been reuinited in a METAPHORICAL
heaven." It is the reunion that is "reality." In Soderbergh's
fictitious story, the lovers really are reunited. It is a happy,
romantic ending, and is intended as such. Suicide has been
romanticized.

David Mullen

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Dec 6, 2002, 8:21:48 PM12/6/02
to
>The more important point, though, is that suicide should not be
>glorified.

I didn't find the ending uplifting, but melancholy. The character has
chosen to go down into oblivion with a comforting illusion of a resurrected
dead wife that Soderbegh is very careful to show couldn't possibly be his
real wife, but merely something conjured from his mind, and inaccurately at
that.

The ending is about as romantic and uplifting as the ending of "Brazil" with
main character lobotomized but firmly entrapped in a dream state that he
preferred to his real life. If the movie truly were meant to be taken as a
"true love conquers all" storyline, I doubt that Soderbergh would have put
so much effort into making the film as cold and austere as possible. The
film is ambivalent about Kelvin's decision at best and hardly could be
described as a "glorification of suicide".

David Mullen


Peter Tonguette

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Dec 6, 2002, 10:32:45 PM12/6/02
to
Leonard F. Wheat wrote:

>You're missing the point. You wrote that "you appear to want
>characters in art to solicit your admiration or empathy instead of
>being truthful or realistic." Here you are defending Soderberg's
>ending on grounds that the first stage of the ending, namely, Kelvin's
>decision to commit suicide, is realistic. I was merely pointing out
>that realism isn't the issue, since it would also have been realistic
>for Kelvin to go back to earth. You therefore can't justify the
>ending on grounds of realism.

I just addressed that by asking why you prefer one "realistic" action
(returning to earth) over another equally "realistic" action (commiting
suicide.) You haven't really answered beyond what you wrote in your original
post - that you like your heros to face up to things, uphold his professional
responsibility, etc. But we go into this more below.

>You further miss the point by assuming that my basic objection to the
>ending is the suicide. Although I do object to the suicide, that
>objection wasn't my essential point. What I objected to was the
>glorification of suicide, Soderbergh's turning suicide into a romantic
>experience. I was objection to an ending that was just so much
>emotional pap.

See below. It's my view that the ending is not romantic (though, natch, it is
emotional), thus the suicide is not glorified.

>The preference I implied was for Kelvin
>to reject suicide. Since staying in the falling station means death,
>rejecting suicide does mean going back to earth, but returning to
>earth wasn't my point. I would nevertheless be willing to make it a
>point. Kelvin was sent to Solaris on a fact finding mission, and he
>had a professional obligation to complete his mission (assuming that
>was within his power, which it was).

Why should the character behave this way though? You or I might not behave the
way Kelvin does, but surely you're aware that there are people who do not live
up to their professional obligations, especially when their dead loved ones
mysteriously re-appear in physical form. Again, the actions of Kelvin's
character struck me as plausible within the context of the film.

>A fundamental problem with your analysis is that you are rewriting the
>ending, offering us a "viewer's edit." You want to pretend that the
>film ends with the shuttle heading back to earth, with Kelvin left
>behind. That would indeed have been genuine tragedy, and allowable in
>the name of art. But you've forgotten something, Peter: you don't
>have an editor's license. You must base your argument on what really
>happens in the story. What really happens is that Kelvin comes back
>to life, is reunited with his wife, and enjoys a new life in a
>metaphorical heaven. You can't ignore what happens after Kelvin
>decides to give up his life.
>
>It's a ghost story, Peter. A ghost story with heaven tacked on. It
>isn't tragedy. It isn't realism. It's just a lot of emotional goo.

Well, for one, I would have no problem if the story was a "ghost story." One
of the greatest works of literature ever, "Hamlet," is - on some level - a
"ghost story." But anyway...

I really have not re-written the literal events of the ending. Kelvin is
clearly seen exiting the pod Gordon is departing in. He leaves for the ship,
which is seen from an exterior shot to be plummeting to Solaris. We don't see
his death, but we can reasonably assume he has died. We then see him
inhabiting an enviroment generated by the planet, reunited with Rheya2. It is
here where we depart, as you see this as a gooey romantic wish fulfillment, and
I see it as a sort of tragedy when one gets beyond the superficial happiness of
Kelvin in the scene.

>Giving up live may be tragic in real life but not in a fictional world
>where death is merely a transition to another state, a state of bliss.

I'm not so sure. I consider drug use "tragic" (funny applying a term in art to
real life, but it'll do) because users are, in some sense, rejecting real life
to live in a kind of fictional world of periodic bliss. Maybe this isn't such
a bad analogy for what I view the ending of "Solaris" to be.

>> For two, what Kelvin had given up life >for< is, as I've said, a
>> patent illusion, albeit a deeply comforting one.
>
>Again, you're confusing the real world with the fictional one. What
>Kelvin gets in the fictional world is not an illusion at all. He has
>actually been reconstituted as a material being, and so has Rheya.

Yes, they physically exist, but are they the "real" people? I wouldn't
consider Rheya2 (the name I'm calling the version of Rheya who appears on the
space station throughout the picture) the "real thing" and it's Rheya2 who I
believe is seen embracing Kelvin in the film's final moments.

>Perhaps I've forgotten some detail of the final scene, but I recall
>nothing suggesting that Kelvin was "still unable to deal with his
>wife's complications." That seems to be just an assumption on your
>point. One could just as easily assume that Kelvin now has a
>determination to work out his differences. That shouldn't be too much
>of a problem, because the chief difference is that she didn't tell him
>she was sterile. Her sterility should no longer be an issue.

It's an assumption of mine, sure - it's not literally stated in the film, but
I'm inferring it based on my view that it's Rheya2 who Kelvin is reunited with
on Solaris. Being a projection of Kelvin's memories, by definition she's
incapable of growth or change beyond what he wants to remember. He's given the
Rheya he wants - one who can be whatever he wants.

>> Well, I would take issue that it's literally "heaven," if that's what
>you > mean.
>
>I didn't say the rematerialized apartment on Solaris was LITERALLY
>heaven. I said, "In effect if NOT LITERALLY, this ending transforms
>Solaris into a ghost story, complete with a METAPHORICAL heaven." I
>later repeated the point: "They have been reuinited in a METAPHORICAL
>heaven." It is the reunion that is "reality." In Soderbergh's
>fictitious story, the lovers really are reunited. It is a happy,
>romantic ending, and is intended as such. Suicide has been
>romanticized.

For Chris Kelvin, suicide has resulted in happiness and redemption; for viewers
who choose to view things from other than his perspective alone, his happiness
is leveraged by the fact that it is with a mere echo of his real wife and in an
illusory enviroment.

Peter

PT Caffey

unread,
Dec 7, 2002, 6:41:35 AM12/7/02
to
ptong...@aol.com (Peter Tonguette) wrote in message
<snip>
> I can understand why someone would reach this conclusion. I do not deny that
> there's a greater feeling of happiness in this final scene than any other scene
> in the film. But to my mind, this is the masterstroke of the film: to give
> Kelvin the happy ending he wants, while providing just enough distance for
> thoughtful viewers to decipher how tragic this supposed happy ending is...


> The very fact that the character sees all of this as a "happy ending" just
> makes it more melancholy for me...
>
> Peter


I think you have it exactly right. Of course the ending of Solaris is
both tragic and melancholy for the reasons you state. The
counterargument seems to be that Soderbergh, as a simpleminded hack,
never "intended" any such subtext. In this view, the kiss that ends
Solaris is a variation on the comedy of remarriage, in which our hero
and heroine, despite vast troubles, "patch things up." What's
Soderbergh's purported motivation for this trite turn? A compromise
for "commercial reasons"--as if such a move could have ever made an
art film like Solaris into a blockbuster! Okay, I think I understand
what's going on here. For those who dislike Soderbergh's previous
work or resent the mere idea of him remaking Solaris, it's critical
that the final result be considered "simplistic" and "corny." But the
film is what it is, intentions aside.

In crossing through the looking glass, Kelvin has joined the ghosts in
the mirror. He may be smiling now, but once upon a time there was a
real wife who is no more. This fact underlies everything. Those of
us who consider this turn tragic and rather melancholy are not merely
projecting our moody nature onto the sunny climes of Solaris. It's
there already.

PT Caffey

PT Caffey

unread,
Dec 7, 2002, 7:51:49 AM12/7/02
to
ptong...@aol.com (Peter Tonguette) wrote in message news:<20021206223245...@mb-cm.aol.com>...

> >It's the reunion that is "reality." In Soderbergh's


> >fictitious story, the lovers really are reunited. It is a happy,
> >romantic ending, and is intended as such. Suicide has been
> >romanticized.
>
> For Chris Kelvin, suicide has resulted in happiness and redemption; for viewers
> who choose to view things from other than his perspective alone, his happiness
> is leveraged by the fact that it is with a mere echo of his real wife and in an
> illusory enviroment.
>
> Peter

As I've posted elsewhere, I agree with your interpretation, Peter.
Those who insist on equating "wish fulfillment" with "happiness"
haven't read their Arabic folktales closely enough (not to mention
"The Monkey's Paw"). And Soderbergh's intentions (which are
mischaracterized above) are irrelevant.

On the other side, we have Leonard Wheat's view that a "happy,
romantic ending" is determined by a character's perception of his own
fate at film's end. Knowing more than what a character knows amounts
to "viewer editing." I am glad I got the memo: Wheat's swoop neatly
dispenses with complexity, irony and the film career of Stanley
Kubrick. Life is simpler now.

In this simpler world, Solaris "glorifies suicide." Of course, it
doesn't exactly glorify Rheya's impulsive suicide, which leaves Kelvin
a walking shell. And it doesn't really glorify Gibarian's suicide; he
abandons to the echoing canyons of the space station what must be a
very lonesome and befuddled replica of a little boy. Not much romance
to be found there. It seems that only Kelvin's suicide is
"glorified." That's Tragedy 2, Glory of Suicide 1. Already, even our
simpler world has developed complications.

Of course, even in Kelvin's "glorious" reconstitution, the bliss isn't
pure. Notice his "Can I believe my eyes?" approach to "Rheya." Why
the hesitation? Where's the "Hey, honey! I'm home" swagger of a
clueless replica? Could it be that hardwired into Kelvin's newly
minted self is the very pang of loss he was so desperate to escape?
Even for Kelvin--inside his fictional reality--it's his awareness of
loss that makes, for him, the "reunion" so sweet. I take this as a
sign of warning. Even in Kelvin's case, the glory of suicide has been
tainted.

That's Tragedy 3, Glory of Suicide 0. Read 'em and weep.

PT Caffey

mark de rozario

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Dec 7, 2002, 2:32:15 PM12/7/02
to
lenw...@earthlink.net (Leonard F. Wheat) wrote in message news:<b5f71a25.02120...@posting.google.com>...

Did Tarkovsky think the ending 'uplifting'? I have never viewed it as
such, for precisely the reasons you indicate. It always struck me as
deeply ambivalent.
Tarkovsky's Solaris has two important themes: can we make contact with
an inhuman cosmos? and, Can we face up to our desire (which is the
secret of what we are)? These two themes recur in Stalker, where the
travelers into the Zone prove ultimately unable to do either. In both
Solaris and Stalker, what seems at first sight to be a fairy tale
granter of wishes (the sentient ocean, the Room) ends up as tormenting
challenge, holding up terrifying mirrors to the reality of human
desire.

For Tarkovsky, the two themes are intimately related. Contact with the
alien is only possible when we have first understood our own desires.
To that extent, Solaris, like Stalker, is a critique of science
fiction, and of the positivist, objectivist model of enquiry that
often underpins it, with its assumption that the universe can be
understood independently of desire. There can be no possibility of
encounter with the alien, by definition, while we remain within the
web of presuppositions that organise experience for us. Such
presuppositions trap the alien just as surely as they trap us.

That is why, for me at least, the ending of Tarkovsky's Solaris is
profoundly ambivalent: has Kelvin reconciled himself with the
impossibility of escaping from his own desiring-economy? Has he
accepted that he must come to terms with himself and his past before
he can encounter the Outside? Or is he falling, once again, into the
terrible seduction of treating the Solaris simulations as if they
were 'real'?

David Kirkpatrick

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Dec 7, 2002, 3:44:16 PM12/7/02
to
mark de rozario wrote:

<