Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Solaris

Reviews - Solaris


Reviewed By Darren Horne

Solaris began life in 1961 as a Polish novel by Stanislaw Lem, then made into a film by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972. In this contemporary remake Steven Soderbergh takes the reins as director, and comes up with a thoughtful and adult film that puts the intelligence back into sci-fi. This is clearly a personal work of passion, and that commitment shines through in every single shot.

Dr Chris Kelvin (Clooney) is an emotionally scarred psychologist who is sent to the space station Prometheus which orbits the enigmatic planet Solaris. (In Greek mythology Prometheus is the Titan who created Man and gave him fire, without asking the permission of Zeus. He was punished for 30 thousand years by being chained to a rock and every day an eagle came and ate out his liver, which would then grow back during the night)

On arrival he finds his friend has apparently committed suicide and the remaining two crewmembers are acting very strangely indeed. Kelvin later has a vivid dream about his dead wife Rheya, (McElhone) who he finds alive and well in bed next to him when he wakes the following morning.

The film uses this scenario to explore a plethora of ideas and philosophical issues such as the meaning of life, religion, God, love, as well as what it is that defines a human.
Thankfully there is plenty of time for the audience to ponder these issues due to the slow pace and long scenes with no dialogue at all.

The restrictive narrative means Clooney fills practically every scene, which works superbly well as this is an emotionally complex film about one man's struggle to come to terms with his wife's death, his memory of that event, and then her unsettling return from the grave. Clooney's performance is fantastic, especially as the wounded widower stripped of the twinkly-eyed charm (and sometimes his clothes) that we see in the dreamy flashback sequences. This allows him to deliver a raw and vulnerable performance of a man totally heart-broken from past experiences.

McElhone is equally outstanding (and remarkably beautiful) as his mentally unstable wife who has her own difficulties in coming to terms with her existence and place in the universe.

The special effects used are of a high standard and used wisely. The space station is a solid and functional stage for the story to be performed on, whereas the planet Solaris is a visual feast of exquisite beauty, with mesmerising electric pinks and blues that will literally bring a tear to your eye.

It will not appeal to every one. I watched at least two couples leave the already barren cinema, and my girlfriend fell asleep in my lap (when I saw it in Plymouth). However, it is a great film for those of us who want more than passive popcorn entertainment, and really should be seen on the big screen.

This is an extremely well made, surreal, and philosophical, treat that will pose a lot of questions and hopefully touch your soul. As one of the characters says "There are no answers, only choices".
Choose to see this film.

Score: 5/5

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