I’m with Troper here… Both are excellent films, but both fall far short of the book for me. Its easily one of the best, most thought-provoking science fiction books ever written. Both films focus on the love story in one way or another, and really fail to address the deeper scientific and philosophical themes of the book. Tarkovsky’s film is great, but I always find it vaguely unsatisfying in various ways- I don’t find it nearly as compelling as Stalker, his other quasi-sci-fi epic. I like the way the love story is handled, and the dreamy atmosphere of the station is beautiful, but I find many of the characters’ endless discussions meandering and less than compelling. The book, to me, focuses on much more interesting themes and questions then Tarkovsky’s spiritual quest (again, I feel that his spiritual leanings are much better served by the story framework and world of Stalker).
On the other hand, its nice to see some love for the Soderbergh film. It was pretty much universally panned on its release and I’ve hardly ever heard anything nice said about it, so its good to see some appreciation here. Soderbergh’s design work was especially beautiful, easily one of the most visually interesting sci-fi films in quite a long time. I quite liked the film overall, more or less as much as Tarkovsky’s. Its another version of the book, I don’t think he was trying to remake the older film. At least in its general feel and atmosphere, it seems closer to the book to me, but again, it really focuses on the love story and the themes of redemption and making up for past mistakes that the love story invokes. Like Tarkovsky, it uses the planet Solaris and all that it involves scientifically as a jumping-off point, and then kind of ignores it after that. That’s what pretty much irks me about both films.
I’m going to have to read the book now. Half-Price books, here I come.
I would think that the electronic music in Tarkovsky’s picture is much more appropriate, even if some think it’s quite dated. The composers who worked with Tarkovsky on many of his films were really avant-garde, and while I’ve not seen Soderbergh’s film, I’ll guess the music is not nearly as interesting.
Lem completely disowned the Tarkovsky version. I guess it strays quite far from the novel. I’d bet neither film would satisfy Stanislaw L.
Yeah Lem was pretty dissatisfied with both movies. He made a point of saying that the Soderbergh version was just a remake of the Tarkovsky. I can understand where he’s coming from, being the author of the novel, and having a specific set of ideas that the story was meant to address. I’m just still trying to decide which movie I like better. Tarkovsky’s is much more surreal and the atmosphere is a bit more effective, but the Soderbergh is more streamlined, is photographed a bit better and has a slightly more preferable ending. I suppose it’s best to seek very different things in all three works, because they do deliver in their own way.
I agree Troper. I love both, but for wildly different reasons. The main difference being that I didn’t get Tarkovsky’s version until second viewing, whereas Soderbergh’s hit me instantly. It might be “mainstream” for me to say, but I prefer Soderbergh’s because I just identified with the emotional aspects of it. The music, the photography, the streamlined pacing (as you mentioned), and of course, the two main characters just spoke to me more.
Tarkovsky’s version is brilliant on an ethereal level, using techniques that I have to admit I’m still getting a grasp on. I’m definitely one of the more mainstream viewers on this site (which is funny, because I have very eclectic tastes in comparison to most of my friends), but Solyaris did captivate me on second viewing, even though I still feel it’s a tad too long. I’d actually like to see something in the midrange of these two versions, something maybe 120-130 minutes in length.
I greatly prefer the remake, actually. I was so excited to see the original, I even had the Criterion added in a shopping cart online. I was ready to watch it and immediately purchase it. I can appreciate how well shot it is, and it’s technically a wonderfully made film. I can also appreciate and normally love a movie that takes the time to truly develop itself…but this movie went too far with the concept. It’s rare for me to get flat out bored and antsy watching a movie but this one did it.
Although its been a year, @Prudence – the music in Soderbergh’s version is actually amazing, and, dare i say it, an even better score than the original Solaris (which I also love). Cliff Martinez uses electronic music in such an elegant, mysterious, introspective way; it completely mirrors the themes of the story and expands upon them. It’s easily one of my favorite scores.
To give you a taste:
Don’t Blow It
Is This What Everybody Wants?