Into the Archives: SOLARIS (2002)

SOLARIS is a 2002 movie about…. Space? Love? Time? Truth or Consequences?

SOLARIS is the kind of movie that means different things to different people. It might be a horror movie if you identify with Dr. Gordon. It could be a Love story if you relate more to Dr. Kelvin. Finally, if you relate to Dr. Snow, it’s a kind of existential introspection.

There is a beautiful planet called Solaris that demands to be explored.

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As with many beautiful things, the planet may be dangerous. Is it’s bright and beautiful display a beacon or a warning?

This ambiguity is what drives the ground crew behind the mission to Solaris to send a security team when they lose contact with the original team. The security team didn’t make it. No one really knows where they went or seems to care. Whatever. Apparently, the next step it to send a psychologist… He also happens to be friends with one of the doctors on the mission… and a qualified astronaut.

Anyway. SOLARIS isn’t about the way things are.

Chris Kelvin, the main character, is psychologist and widower. Over time, through flashbacks, we watch him meet and fall in love with Rheya. He’s charming and she’s a free-spirit. their falling in love is easy to understand. it’s moving and genuine. But love isn’t a relationship. Love is only a part of a relationship.

Once Dr. Kelvin reaches SOLARIS there is a distinct feeling that we are no longer on Earth. The difference between being in the gravitational pull of Solaris and being on Earth is not only physical, it’s also mental and emotional.

All of the characters on Earth are logical, tactical and grounded. This makes them wholly unqualified to understand the emotional situation that has taken over their crew. Dr. Kelvin, a devout skeptic with a clinical understanding of human behavior should be a good fixer.

Almost immediately Kelvin is greeted by Dr. Snow. Maybe it’s just me forcing connections but Snow is very much like the White Rabbit or the ephemeral Chesire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. Snow has the majority of the lines in the film but still, he manages to say almost nothing. He hints at everything in a way that makes it seem he’s working from an answer key in the back of the book without access to the actual questions.

On the other hand, we have Dr. Gordon. She’s all about the facts and lack of facts. Dr. Gordon is focused on the Truth and what that truth means for the logical team on Earth.

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  She is the ground and Snow is the sky.

But laying on the grass on a sunny day is a feeling as much as it’s a reality. You remember as much of it as you can as accurately as you can. However, how well do we remember things?

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Even things we love so dearly we’ll never forget. Could we truly do justice to our most beloved memories? If those memories are people, could we honestly and accurately recreate them?

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Would you want to live with the version of your most beloved memory that was only based on your memories?

SOLARIS is that sunny day and the choice to relive it honestly (bug bites and bee stings and all) or remember it perfectly incompletely.

There is an aspect of horror, love, mystery, and fantasy and they all age well like an emotional time capsule.

  • George Clooney as Dr. Chris Kelvin
  • Natascha McElhone as Rheya
  • Viola Davis as Dr. Gordon
  • Jeremy Davies as Snow

SOLARIS is based on the 1961 Polish novel by Stanisław Lem

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