Aug 22, 2006

solaris redux

I was just going to post this in his comment section but it got out of hand. My fellow moviegoer, DocRPM, has put up a post regarding Tarkovsky's and Soderbergh's Solaris. I don't know what it is with these two movies. They really get into my head. I start with a simple reply and I realize I'm going to go on for paragraphs. Anyway...

DocRPM's main point is that even though the movies are based on the same book, they aren't easily compared. There's something to this. It's a good point. But let me digress for a second.

It's interesting to know that Tarkovsky made Solaris in some respects as the antithesis to 2001. Tarkovsky hated that movie. I think he hated it mostly because it seemed a showpiece for special effects rather than a story (not saying I agree with this) and because it's is so antiseptic in quality. It's ironic (but not surprising) that when Solaris came out in the U.S. that it was marketed as the Russian 2001. That particular marketing genius was probably taken out back and shot after Solaris was poorly received here in the states.

There are parts of Solaris that struck me as Tarkovsky trying too hard to show he could outshine the upstart Kubrick. It came out 4 years after 2001 so the lack of polish seems almost intentional although I'm sure he didn't have half the budget. And the lingering organic scenes again seemed overly done. But hell, he always does that. And don't get me started on the highway scene. The point here is that I think 2001 and Soderbergh's Solaris have similar qualities. They are both slick, modern cinematic experiences. I'm not casting good or bad judgment on these films with those descriptors. Given this, I think it is natural to see the movies as somewhat incomparable. Maybe this is where it stems from.

I don't quite agree with DocRPM's other point that Soderbergh treated it mainly as a love story. That is there to be sure. And it was marketed as such (see picture above). But it is still quite surely an art house film as Tarkovsky's film is. And I don't think Soderbergh put love ahead of philosophy here. Both films are presenting you with a Greek-like riddle. If the thing you loved most in the world disappeared, would a fake substitute suffice? Speaking of which this is the same question Bladerunner asked (with Dick saying no and Scott saying yes). Would you lie to yourself to make yourself think this thing was real? Would that provide comfort?

I would best describe the difference in the two movies as this. Tarkovsky attacks the philosophy directly and tangibly. He is on terra firma here (pun intended). The questions and answers hit you over the head. Watching Soderbergh's Solaris however seems almost like watching a movie while you are half awake. It's part dream and part real. Soderbergh uses flashbacks to heighten this feeling. The music heightens this feeling. The visuals heighten this feeling. It's almost like he wants to comfort you and lull you into a dream state to insure you are addressing these questions at your core. And I think for this reason Soderbergh's version is a more emotional one. I felt more empathic watching his version. And as a result it was harder to answer that riddle.

Or as DocRPM says I could be totally wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i agree completely that soderbergh's version is an art-house film. the box-office returns demonstrated that clearly. i guess i just felt like he and tarkovsky were in two different art houses.

as to whether tarkovsky was direct and tangible...this we will have to discuss over drinks the next time we manage to see each other.