Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by:Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies, Ulrich Tukur
Released: February 27, 2003
Grade: B-

Steven Soderbergh is a bold filmmaker who isn’t afraid to explore new techniques.  He’s made some wonderful films such as King Of The Hill, Out Of Sight and the acclaimed Traffic.  On the other hand, he’s made a few so-so flicks such as Erin Brockovich and Full Frontal.  There is no question that Solaris would be the strangest release since last year’s Mulholland Drive but whilst I was intrigued, I was not left dazzled.

Set sometime in the future, the film begins with Kelvin (Clooney) getting a phone call from a friend, Gibarian, on a space station above the planet of Solaris.  He speaks cryptically of problems, says that Kelvin is the only person who will be able to understand and then asks him to join them on the station.  Space authorities had previously sent security patrols to rescue those aboard but they had not returned.

Kelvin travels to Solaris and on boarding the station, finds it eerily silent.  There’s no greeting, not a word to be heard and smearings of blood lining the floors, walls and ceilings.  He finally meets two “survivors”, Gordon (Davis) and Snow (Davies), who like Gibarian, aren’t direct about what happened.  They inform Kelvin that Gibarian committed suicide.  They also give the impression there’s no point talking about what happened because he wouldn’t believe them.  Instead, they’re going to let him see for himself.

Kelvin goes to bed that night and dreams of his late wife, Rheya (McElhone).  He recalls the time they first met and the romantic courtship that led to the marriage.  He awakes.  His wife is lying right next to him, hugging him.

No more I’m sorry.  That’s because I don’t want to spoil it and also because I didn’t really understand it.  This film deserves an award for the worst film to take popcorn to.  There is not a hell of a lot of dialogue.  There are scenes which stretch up to five minutes where not a single word is spoken.  The background music score from Cliff Martinez (which reminded me of the score he composed for Traffic) is incessantly repetitive almost to the point where it’s hypnotising the audience.  Which such silence in the theatre, it can be a very uncomfortable experience.

I love a film where things aren’t handed to you on a silver platter but these characters bored me to the point where they became unlikeable.  It’s not a thriller.  It’s a sappy love story woven against the mysteries of space.  Kelvin was dull and so was his wife.  The creepy Jeremy Davies was the only interesting character of the bunch but he’s given few scenes.

The reception for the film has been mixed.  Critics have called it everything from “thoughtful” and “astonishing” to “incoherent” and “shapeless”.  At the recent Berlin Film Festival, a journalist at a news conference for Solaris described the film has “boring”.  George Clooney, who is clearly passionate about the film (more so than his character) then gave the journalist a huge serve by saying “What a jerk!  I mean honestly, you know, what a shit thing to say!”  It seems this film is generating more interest outside the theatre rather than in it.