I read Stanisław Lem’s Solaris (the new Bill Johnston translation, grade-A uncut straight from the Polish), and enjoyed it for the most part. Not available in paper, so I finally used this Kindle gadget thing.

This is a book for ideas. The writing isn’t too special on its own, on a sentence and paragraph level. I could have done with less of the spinning off into academic/history tangents, but I suppose they have their purpose. Reminds me of Borges a bit, that spirit of developing gobs and gobs of history and references. I think the spirit is more ironic here, underscoring how the knowledge of Solaris that humans gathered and theorized for generations really amounts to so little.

Now I really want to watch both movies again. I read a lot of this while listening to the soundtrack for The Fountain, which makes a good pairing.

Another Lem book I really, really liked was Imaginary Magnitude, which, as a collection of… stories?… offers a lot more variety and more opportunities to have your mind blown.

Solaris (2002)

Solaris (2002). I really liked the Tarkovsky version of the novel, and Soderbergh’s is very good, too. It’s more trim and spare. What I really loved was the sound throughout. Footsteps, rustle of clothing, breath. And that soundtrack! Cliff Martinez to the rescue again (see: Drive; Contagion). So perfect. That said, the script is a little painful here and there. What are you gonna do? At least the ideas about memory, empathy, regret, etc. are evergreen.

There’s not a single dud in any of the Soderbergh films I’ve seen lately. Looking forward to more. My current rankings:

  1. Haywire
  2. Out of Sight
  3. Solaris
  4. Contagion
  5. Ocean’s Trilogy, which I don’t remember all that well, honestly.

Solaris (1972)

Solaris, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. I like this one much more in hindsight than when I was actually watching it. But I have to say it’s given much more post-viewing food-for-thought than its cousin, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now that it’s over, I kind of want to watch it again. It’s much more introspective than the Kubrick, and it’s beautifully shot with some truly “wow” moments. I give it a thumbs-up for when you’ve got some patience to let it linger.

Roger Ebert on Solaris. Phillip Lopate on Solaris (“Watching this 169-minute work is like catching a fever, with night sweats and eventual cooling brow”).