The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

50° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

    Solaris A Dwarfed Star

    ‘?Solaris’ has beenout for nearly two weeks, and it has yet to take in $10 million. The film was agamble for production company 20th Century Fox, director StevenSoderbergh, and star George Clooney. This box office stumble is especiallyregretful, since the film is of the highest quality.

    It is based on a Polish sciencefiction novel by Stanislaw Lem. That book is considered one of the greatestcontributions to the genre.

    Clooney plays psychiatrist ChrisKelvin, who is called upon by an astronaut friend holed up in a space shiporbiting the planet Solaris. Kelvin’s task is to discover why theship’s crew has apparently gone insane, why they refuse to leave, and tomake them return to Earth. Once onboard, he encounters bloody smears on thewalls and floor, his friend’s corpse, a wacked out researcher named Snowwho struggles to finish a sentence without stuttering and fidgeting, and aparanoid physicist named Gordon who locks herself in her quarters.

    After his first night’ssleep, Kelvin dreams of his dead wife Rheya, who committed suicide on Earthsome time earlier. He relives their initial meeting and subsequent good timestogether. When he wakes, she is there with him, in the flesh.

    Kelvin must decide how he is toreact to her presence while he combats the reality of his own memories. Alongwith Snow and Gordon, he assesses that his wife is a creation of Solaris. Theplanet reads minds and interacts with the crew by reuniting them with lost loves.The catch is that these constructs are not human. They only remember what thesurvivors remember of the originals. Their minds are not their own, but adistilled version sculpted from the limited perspective of another. Moreover,they are incredibly hard to get rid of.

    To its credit, the film posesmany essential philosophical questions yet makes no declarations. How can we besure that our perceptions are real? If we cannot be sure, does the truthmatter? Is the truth even attainable? There are also some disturbing ethicaldilemmas. When is it acceptable to kill? When does morality lose itssignificance?

    Theory aside, the film works onother levels. Kelvin and his wife experience moments touching and heartwrenching, both in the dream sequences and onboard the ship. Suspense ismaintained from Kelvin’s first sight of blood upon entering the shipuntil the desperate attempt to flee Solaris. There is little action, yet anominous specter looms strong. Most viewers will be unprepared for the plottwists.

    Clooney does an excellent job ofconveying awe and discomfort, love and longing. This is done mostly throughcalculated silence and on-target facial expressions. Soderbergh, who also wrotethe screenplay, provides believable and purposeful dialogue. But perhaps thefilm’s greatest strength is that it takes science for granted withoutbreaking fundamental laws of nature. The ships obviously have the ability totraverse large distances of space extremely quickly, but they look more likesomething out of NASA than Star Trek. The survivors ponder the nature ofSolaris, but they do not implement techno-magic to peer into the core of theplanet to find the means of its destruction. These qualities give the filmempathy, intelligence, and integrity.

    Although 20th CenturyFox bit the bullet on a payday, hopefully the public will respectClooney’s transition to serious acting, and Soderbergh’s efforts tocraft a work of art.

    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Statesman

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Statesman

    Comments (0)

    All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *