Solaris (2002)

Caught an airing of Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris in HD on the TCM channel. Far as I know, the film has never had a HD release on Blu-ray anywhere in the world, so I was curious to see how it looks in HD. One word- beautiful.

solaris-planetOh go on then, another word- exquisite.  If its indeed true that there has never been a HD disc release of this film then that needs fixing pronto. Maybe Arrow Films might give it a go? I believe Solaris is a 20th century Fox release, and Arrow have licensed a few Fox titles in the past (Big Trouble in Little China springs to mind for one). If anyone one from Arrow ever reads this- make it happen, please.

Regards the film itself, it still holds up very well. Indeed, while it may be inferior to the 1972 Russian original (albeit more accessible), it remains a film that gets better with age. Its a slow, meditative film, an oddity back when it was released and only more so now as films get faster and louder with every summer season. I’ve always maintained that Alien entities are Unknowable- Star Treks friendly biped aliens with bumpy foreheads and perfect English are all well and good, but proper science fiction dealing with Alien contact should always be more 2001/Solaris than Star Trek. The biggest mistake Prometheus made was trying to explain the mysterious Space Jockey and the derelict craft from the original Alien. Contacting and understanding an Alien should be more like getting to chat with God- these are entities so utterly Alien they are, frankly, beyond our comprehension.

Which is the beauty of Solaris. Its generally accepted that the planet Solaris is alive, an Alien entity that can only communicate with humans through their memories and unconscious desires/fears… by taking corporeal form in the shape of loved ones, whether dead or left behind on Earth, the Alien Solaris attempts to understand our form of life, our physicality, mortality, our sense of space and time. Its possibly more it trying to fathom us out than us figuring it out, a fascinating realisation that to Aliens, we are as Alien to them as they are to us.



I believe producer James Cameron (once slated to direct this film, thank goodness that didn’t work out) commented that the film was originally much longer, that it was drastically tightened up. I’d love to see that longer version. It occurs to me that Solaris would benefit from the tv mini-series approach of the recent Fargo series. I’m certain most fans of the Coen brother’s cult movie were horrified at the prospect of it being transferred to a television series but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the year, possibly even superior to the original movie, The story of Solaris spread across a ten-episode miniseries, with more characters on the space station and hence more visitations and encounters, and more time to ponder man’s place in an increasingly strange universe, would be fascinating. Of course, there’s as much chance of that ever happening as there is a longer cut of Soderbergh’s film being released- a huge fat zero.

5 thoughts on “Solaris (2002)

  1. Agree on everything.

    I wouldn’t rule out a TV version completely – Soderbergh’s big into TV now, with The Knick supposedly excellent [picked up for a second season], and The Girlfriend Experience being adapted for TV [by very capable hands].

    Yeah, I really yearn for an Hd version of this – I saw it at the cinema way back and loved it.

  2. Initially I was surprised this isn’t on Blu-ray, but I suppose it kinda makes sense when you think it through: it was a little too early to be among the initial spree of recent-catalogue re-releases; it’s not a big hit Fox would be keen to revisit; and it’s neither cult-y enough nor critically-beloved enough (exacerbated by the existence original) for a specialist label to want it. The only thing it has in its favour (in that regard) is Soderbergh’s name, which either by choice or design doesn’t seem to attract the kind of almost-fanboy-esque fervour of someone like Wes Anderson (cf. all those Criterion re-releases of his films).

    Personally, I’ve been thinking lately I should revisit the Solarises, especially this one — it’s quite a few years since I saw it, and before I’d seen the Russian one, and I wonder if I’d approach it differently now.

      1. Matthew McKinnon

        I never realised it was shot on 35mm film. I always assumed it was an early Soderbergh digital project. I expect it’ll look amazing on 4K, or even Blu.

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