Normally, I find remakes of classics a violation of the 11th Commandment. Every once in a while, a remake is made that bestows the proper honor on the original but adds a contemporary complexity that recommends it as a worthy effort. This little gem, I believe, did not get the proper respect on its intial release (with that said, it was a really hard movie to market--heady science fiction made with an A-list star and a hot director who previously worked together on the playful blockbuster, Ocean's 11).
Solaris is more of a reimagination of the Stanislaw Lem novel than Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 classic. The film follows Kelvin (George Clooney) as he investigates strange events on the space station that orbits Solaris, a planet that seems to be watching the watchers (how Lacanian). A series of mindbending events unfold that begin to probe questions of identity, memory, love, knowledge, etc. After watching the film, one is compelled to ask: who would be your visitor?
Like 2001, this is a film that I can revisit quite often. I am continually struck by the spot-on score; the steel drums that permeate the film are almost as contemplative as the plot. It is a beautiful film; Soderbergh films his characters in perfect shadows, just enough to create the aura of mystery that drives the film without obfuscating the complex emotions displayed on a character's face. It was rumored that Clooney was not originally cast for this role (despite my research acumen, I could not find the actor originally offered the part), but he lobbied Soderbergh hard and Clooney eventually won the part. I am glad he did. I believe this is easily his best performance to date, but like the film, it went unnoticed. George Clooney has often been dubbed our modern day Cary Grant. Like Grant, Clooney gives consistently wonderful and nuanced performances and yet fails to get recognition as a great actor (Grant received only one Oscar nomination in his career, and that was early on).
So far Soderbergh is 2 for 2 on remakes. I just hope Peter Jackson is equally adroit at remaking classics.
Watch this film. And 2001. And the original.