Dr. Gibarian, part of a team at a space station studying Solaris, makes an urgent and self-described bizarre video request to his friend, civilian psychiatrist Dr. Chris Kelvin, to come to the station to deal with an unspecified phenomenon aboard, that phenomenon with which Chris' experience and background may be able to explain and solve. Chris learns that his trip is sanctioned by the space program as a security force had been sent to the station to investigate, that security team which is now missing. When Chris arrives at the station, he finds only two surviving team members, Drs. Gordon and Snow (Dr. Gibarian committed suicide), who are both acting nervously. Chris also finds two unexpected people there, the first, who Chris only sees fleetingly, being Dr. Gibarian's adolescent son Michael, and the second being Chris' deceased wife, Rheya. Chris and Rheya had a passionate relationship in all its good and bad before she committed suicide. Apparently, these appearances of loved ...Written by
Kelvin shares his name with William Thompson, First Baron Kelvin, the legendary physicist who first determined an accurate value for absolute zero temperature. The corresponding temperature scale is named in his honor. See more »
George Clooney is shown traveling in a sleek slightly futuristic rapid transit train but the rear projection/blue screen out the window clearly shows the current day "Merchandise Mart" station of the Chicago CTA Subway. Also during his journey the train he passes going the opposite direction is a present day subway train. See more »
[Chris's memories, in voiceover]
Chris, what is it? I love you so much. Don't you love me anymore?
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There are no credits at the beginning. All the credits are at the end of the film. See more »
An interesting statement about the inability to let go
As a science fiction film, Solaris follows the same rule as the best of the genre, namely that it isn't the creatures or technology that makes the viewers want to watch, it is the human drama. Which is just as well, because the film itself is slower than the proverbial wet week, in spite of being less than a hundred minutes in length. Nonetheless, I will be very interested to see future projects from Steven Soderbergh.
The plot revolves around a psychologist who is suffering deep emotional problems, which mainly seem to revolve around the suicide of his wife. So when he is floating aimlessly around a spaceship that orbits the titular planet, apparitions of his wife begin appearing. From what I am able to discern, an alien intelligence is trying to take over the ship's crew, in the hope that the ship will return to Earth and take them with it. Of course, the crew have other ideas.
In essence, it sounds a lot like the basic plot for Alien, minus the violence. Alien has a degree of violence, most of which is implied, and so too does Solaris. The difference here is that the violence is not essential to the plot. In fact, aside from a couple of corpses, you never really get to see any. Instead, we are given a good deal of exposition regarding the doctor's feelings regarding his wife and what he would do to have her back in any shape or form. When the Solaris alien appears in his cabin, it tells him everything he wants to hear, and appears exactly as he desires.
The big question posed by the film is whether we are the sum of how we, and more importantly other people, remember us, or whether there's more that defines our reality. Having struggled with other people's wrong impressions of me for most of my life, I have often pondered this question myself. When the apparition-clone of Rheya is suddenly deciding that it would be best for her and Chris if she no longer existed in this form, she asks simply if she has simply been slapped together from Chris' memories or desires. Nobody ever knows all there is to know about another person, and that's what makes the surrealism of the story so compelling.
I gave Solaris a seven out of ten. It was slow, and it could have been at least ten minutes longer, but it works as a nice little piece of thinking entertainment. Give it a once over, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
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