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Solaris (Steven Soderburgh - 2003)


In 2003, Steven Soderburgh released his version of Solaris. Soderburgh said that his film was a new adaptation of Stanislav Lem's science fiction novel of the same name - not a remake of the 1972 Tarkovski classic - but he was lying. It's true, there are elements that appear in the book and in the Soderburgh film but not in the Tarvovski version, but there are also many elements that both films have in common, that do not appear in the book. One scene comes to mind: Kris's wife, Hari (Rhea in Soderburgh's 2003 remake) convulses on the floor in a weird, almost non-human way. Tarkovski achieved the weird effect by playing the film of the actress's movements backwards. Soderburgh uses exactly the same technique in that scene. Come on Steven - it's a remake.

What can I say about the Soderburgh film?...

...It's OK. It's an OK film in its own right, but it doesn't stand comparison to the Tarkovski version. I enjoyed it when I first saw it. I loved the music, and liked that Soderburgh had decided to put the space station in orbit around the planet, rather than hovering a couple of hundred metres above the surface in a kind of anti-gravity field as it was in both the book and the 1972 film. I found that idea of being in orbit very powerful.

Watching Soderburgh's film reawakened my interest in the story and inspired me to watch the Tarkovski film again, and also to read Lem's book. I'm afraid though that after watching the original again, I couldn't really enjoy the remake. Tarkovski made a powerful love story, which doesn't work for me in the new version. I just didn't believe in the love affair between Chris and Rhea. It is shown as a flirtation - a sexual encounter - but not a believeable love affair. In the end, I have become irritated with the Soderburgh version and I can't watch it anymore. It doesn't do justice to the original.

Though, as I say, it's an OK film in its own right.

Copyright 2005 Paul Mackilligin