Starring: George Clooney, Natasha McElhone, Jeremy Davies
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Running Time: 98 mins
Solaris is an American film about a psychologist who is sent to inspect the crew of a space station orbiting a planet with unnerving characteristics.
While perhaps not as daunting a prospect as Andrei Tarkovsky’s three-hour cinematic mammoth, Hollywood’s take on Solaris just doesn’t have the same majesty, attempting to rein in some of the story’s more out-there ideas with a simpler screenplay, but lacking the mind-boggling drama that makes this story so enthralling.
Let’s start with one of the big differences between Steven Soderbergh’s film here and Tarkovsky’s classic. Apparently, this film is meant to be much more faithful to the original novel by Stanislaw Lem, even despite its far, far shorter running time.
Tarkovsky was of course renowned for his brand of ‘slow cinema’, and that’s something which doesn’t shine through in this Hollywood attempt to make the Solaris story a little more accessible to general audiences, removing an element of the soul that made the Soviet adaptation so magnetic.
Admittedly, neither film is an easy watch, and this adaptation of Solaris doesn’t go overboard with its attempts to simplify affairs, still telling a patient story, albeit not with the same emotional underbelly that Tarkovsky was able to create, having spent almost twice as long developing the characters and the setting.
While the lead performances from the likes of George Clooney and Natasha McElhone are fine, Clooney is nowhere near the emotionally wrecked Donatas Banionis, and McElhone stars almost too frequently to have the same irresistible mystery of Natalya Bondarchuk in Tarkovsky’s version.
The film’s short running time certainly serves to make Solaris a much less daunting prospect, but writer-director Steven Soderbergh isn’t able to capture the same depth and drama in that shorter space, meaning that this adaptation feels almost half-baked in comparison to Tarkovsky’s classic.
I wouldn’t say that this film succeeds in making Solaris much more accessible, and it only feels worth the watch to me after you’ve seen Tarkovsky’s version, so as to compare and contrast the different approaches. In short, however, this film doesn’t live up to the same legacy, and that’s why I’m giving Solaris a 7.0 overall.