Combustible Celluloid
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With: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies, Ulrich Tukur, John Cho
Written by: Steven Soderbergh, based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for sexuality/nudity, brief language and thematic elements
Running Time: 99
Date: 11/19/2002

Solaris (2002)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Planet of the Shapes

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a 1961 novel by Stanislaw Lem, Steven Soderbergh's version of Solaris runs an hour less than Andrei Tarkovsky's great 1972 version. Tarkovsky included a long prologue with the hero Chris Kelvin and we learned a bit about his life on earth. Soderbergh skips all that and takes us directly to a space station, where something weird has happened. Psychologist Kelvin (George Clooney) arrives to investigate, but no one is able to explain exactly what has happened. The next day, Kelvin wakes up to find his dead wife (Natascha McElhone) next to him. It seems that the nearby planet, Solaris, conjures up images from our memories and makes them real -- real, but not real, since our memories have little to do with fact. Soderbergh's direction, like Tarkovsky's is slow and contemplative, lingering long enough to truly ponder it. The design is all man-made metal, enclosed and interior (Tarkovsky used images of nature to open his film, juxtaposing the space station's coldness.) It's an unusual challenge for a Hollywood film with a major star, but worth the effort.

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