Although I enjoyed Soderberg's Solaris OK on it's own level it was ultimately unsatisfactory because of ending up with the lovers living happily ever after in some sort of 'heaven' where there is no pain. This is so far from the mysterious encounter with the alien ocean in the original movie as to be almost laughable.
Solaris was as weird as 2001, and people differed over what it 'meant' but one thing is certain - the ocean manifests as his suicidal wife while probing in his mind, but later she STOPS returning when the ocean takes a different approach. At this point the intelligent ocean tries to 'understand' and adapt to the human just as the human tries to reconcile with the ocean. We are talking a strange mixture of cosmic mysticism and truly alien encounter. To have it reduced to a 'second chance for happiness' and a 'happy ending fantasy life in an illusionary 'folie-a-deux' " seems so irritatingly trivial that I guess I am still mumbling on....
Hey ho - I shouldn't take it so personally, I guess. This from Underview
"In an attempt to appease whatever motivation lies behind the ocean's assault on their sanity, to deflect whatever power is tearing their lives apart, Kris and his companions agree to an experiment. An encephelogram of Kris's brain will be directed into the sea, in the hopes that the life force will be better able to comprehend the nature of humanity."
"Ocean Solaris begins to understand what gives Kris his humanity. When Kris's fever lifts, his first thought is of Hari. But she has gone, and will not return. Hari is not at the innermost core of his life force. The purpose of Kris's ordeal goes beyond assuaging the guilt that haunts him over Hari's death. "
"And what destiny is it that now awaits Kris? He has no reason to remain exiled in this distant place, but what is left for him back on earth? Just as Dave in 2001 underwent a transformation beyond the point of any human reference, so Kris's experiences have carried him long past the point where he can simply return whence he came; so his journey is almost complete. It is time for Kris to learn - or to be reminded - of his own true source and find his ultimate destination."
And it is his parents (his source) that he is reconciled with in the end.....
"Kelvin can never distance himself from the forces that shaped his own development. However far he journeys, he will ultimately be drawn back to his own roots. Even at the limits of human endurance, Kelvin is a creature of the earth and the people who gave him existence. The dream of returning home and eradicating the mistakes of his past lies at the core of Kelvin's being, but it takes an alien intelligence to perceive the dream.
Yet that alien intelligence, too, is subject to whatever laws may govern the universe. The inescapable fate bestowed by a spiritual, moral existence is to live with the conscience that arises from the actions a person takes, with no prospect of a second chance. Kelvin's ultimate destiny is to return to the place where he was born. He can go nowhere else."
But then again, Lem (the original author) found Tarkovsky's film irritatingly emotional, mystical and glum –
"The whole sphere of cognitive and epistemological considerations was extremely important in my book and it was tightly coupled to the solaristic literature and to the essence of solaristics as such. Unfortunately, the film has been robbed of those qualities rather thoroughly. Only in small bits and through the tracking camera shots we discover the fates of those present at the station but these fates should not be any existential anecdote either but a grand question concerning man's position in Cosmos, etc.
My Kelvin decides to stay on the planet without any hope whatsoever while Tarkovsky created an image where some kind of an island appears, and on that island a hut. And when I hear about the hut and the island I'm beside myself with irritation... This is just some emotional sauce into which Tarkovsky has submerged his heroes, not to mention that he has completely amputated the scientific landscape and in its place introduced so much of the weirdness I cannot stand."
So I guess they are all separate but related bits of art, and I shouldn't get so mad....
This from Salon
"Soderbergh's film is probably not the equal of either Tarkovsky's 1972 predecessor or the memorably Byzantine prose of Lem's novel, but in the end, almost despite himself, this able craftsman has made a brave and lovely companion piece to both of them. His ending is pure cinema at its most marvelous and moving; it brings Kelvin full circle and renders irrelevant all questions about where he is, whether he's alive or dead, whether he's with Rheya or alone. He's in a movie, after all, and if that's not immortality it's about the closest thing we've got. "
This from Shaking Through
"Soderbergh boils Solaris down to one central conceit: Love is stronger than death. Lem touched on this notion, but debunked it as useless romanticizing, yet another example of humans trying to impose their will on immutable universal law. For Soderbergh, however, love can triumph over death, as it has in recent films like Ghost and Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula. Soderbergh also understands basic economics: will audiences really go for a brooding meditation on time, memory and intransigent contact with a living ocean, or would they prefer to see George Clooney (playing Dr. Chris Kelvin in the update) and the striking Natascha McElhone (as Rheya) falling in love and getting naked? "
Which just about sums it up...... I have no great affection for 'Love Conquers All' as a plot - simply because, when it doesn't, people just say "Well that can't have been true love..." (sigh)