Solaris (Soderbergh)

Previously:  The novel by Lem and the film adaptation by Tarkovsky

I like Soderbergh, but I might not have checked out his Solaris had Netflix not grouped it with the Tarkovsky and von Trier's Melancholia, which was already on the Queue.

So the set looks like Blade Runner and the plot sounds like Aliens, but there the pretensions to science fiction end.  Soderbergh decided the most interesting aspect of the novel was Kelvin processing (or not) his grief over his wife's suicide.  To make this work, I should like to have had more exploration of the conflict that drove Kelvin to walk out on his wife, provoking her to kill herself.  As presented, it is far too trite for the third act to pay off.

It's possible that Soderbergh intended to demonstrate that humans are irremediable pattern-seekers, and that Kelvin's unresolved grief created the visitations by his dead wife and then his final vision.  But we hardly need a self-organizing, environment-manipulating planet for that.

This interpretation was defeated for me when Kelvin was visited by a Gibarian so out of character from Kelvin's memory of him that Soderbergh lets us believe that this Gibarian was speaking for Solaris.  This reinforces Kelvin's narcissistic response to the phenomena and sets up Solaris as a gnomic godhead that redeems human transience.  As fetching as Clooney and McElhone are to watch, to me this was substantially less interesting than Lem's novel or Tarkovsky's adaptation.

I was surprised how quickly I tired of Jeremy Davies; I didn't even care about his "twist."  When Kelvin spies Rheya conferring with Gibarian's child, I had an awful moment where I thought that she might find renewed purpose by adopting him.

The one idea of Soderbergh's that I enjoyed was Kelvin's worry that he was "remembering [Rheya] wrong."  Does love mean remembering everything about someone with complete accuracy?  Is it less loving to forget something about someone that they would like to change?  To forgive without forgetting is said to require grace, possibly of divine origin.  For those of us who can't travel to Soderbergh's Solaris, forgetting will have to do.

Followed by:  Lars von Trier's Melancholia.

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