“Solaris” uses science fiction to explore the problems we have in relationships and our lack of understanding those we relate to.
He goes on to say that the forgiveness we give when we are wronged allows us to be “spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride.”
Buechner concludes that the forgiveness that comes to both parties means “freedom to be at peace within their own skins and being glad in the presence of the other.”
“Solaris” speaks to this idea. It uses science fiction to explore the problems we have in relationships and our lack of understanding those we relate to.
Chris Kelvin is a psychiatrist who goes through life doing his job. At the beginning of the movie, a colleague asks him to come to a planet named Solaris to help evacuate a space station crew. It seems that two crewmembers have committed suicide, and the remaining crew is traumatized by some phenomenon affecting the station.
Arriving at the station, Kelvin finds two crewmembers alive and his colleague dead. Snow is seemingly a stoner who talks with tics and hand-waving. He is nothing more than a stream of consciousness that seems to make no sense. Gordon is the other member; she has locked herself in her cabin. Kelvin doesn’t understand Gordon’s agoraphobia, but is told he will understand it when he sleeps.
Kelvin does sleep—and he dreams. He dreams of his wife, Rheya, who committed suicide. Kelvin awakens to find her in bed with him. He responds by taking her to an escape pod and sending her out into space. The next night, he dreams of Rheya again, and she appears once more, this time enrapturing Kelvin. His love comes back in full flame; someone he lost returns, and he vows not to lose her again.
The movie conjures up Rheya—through Kelvin’s memories. She doesn’t grow as a person. She is unstable and suicidal, yet Kelvin longs for her and wants her to stay. The problem is, Rheya may look human and may look like his wife, but she is neither.
“Solaris” asks the tough question of what it means to be in a relationship. The conjured Rheya is as wounded as Kelvin remembers her. And she reflects a wounded man who carries guilt about her death. She also has the wounds that he has inflicted on her in their relationship. Even with a chance to begin again, there is no redemption. The patterns he acted out in the previous relationship are acted out again. Their relationship is like a tape loop, playing over and over.
This movie is based on a Russian film by the same name. Its director, Andrei Tarkovsky, was known for his faith and use of Christian imagery in his filmmaking. Steven Soderbergh captures some of this in his remake. We find that redemption comes outside of the relationship. It takes a force beyond to bring about true reconciliation.
“Solaris” is a movie that asks us to think about who we are in relation to those we love. That old song about how you always hurt the one you love is played out here. But the movie allows us to see that we do not have to live in the hurt. Redemption is possible. As Buechner wrote, forgiveness allows us to be at peace in our own skin and be glad in the presence of the other.
“Solaris” is one of the best movies of the year.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for sexuality/nudity, brief language and thematic elements.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Chris Kelvin: George Clooney; Rheya Kelvin: Natascha McElhone; Snow: Jeremy Davies; Helen Gordon: Viola Davis; Gibarian: Ulrich Tukur; Berton: Morgan Rusler .
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.