Analysis: “Solaris”

It has been remarked that when PluribusOne™ analyzes a book or movie we seem to do so as if the story were true. That is due partly to our respect for the author’s intention to create a believable story, but mostly due to our recognition of the fact (in our philosophy) that in the infinitude of multiversal Omniverse all stories are equally true. From the standpoint of Reality in the highest, the idea of fiction versus nonfiction is a fiction, a dyadic concept valid only in a relative sense for the purpose of establishing boundaries between reality constructs within the One. The best authors either know this or they intuitively sense that they are drawing on a source beyond cranial-based creativity. 

So, the best of what is called fiction—in this case, science fiction—is partly the result of an author tuning in to a compatible, or not entirely incompatible, universe next door; to tell tales of wholly incompatible universes would be more than surreal and fail to entertain, or would be impossible to tell. Published in 1961, Solaris is a story poised on the edge of the reality most of us find familiar, yet it is believable and thought-provoking. Its author, Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006), like Philip K. Dick, was a writer able to escape the comfortable confines of traditional storytelling and peer into parallel universes. 

The 2002 film, Solaris, starring George Clooney, is the third film to be based on Lem’s book, and it is a high quality production. Nonetheless, we find it regrettable that the opportunity to make an intellectually and philosophically rich film—one that could still have included a romantic dimension—was foregone in favor of turning it into a troubled and troubling love story. Hopefully, a fourth treatment will be produced in the future. But first we would like to see a team of philosophy majors write a book titled Solaris and Philosophy to help guide the next screenwriter and director. Or, perhaps, cinema may never match the power and potential of the written (and spoken) word. 

Our advice to those who saw the 2002 movie and are interested in trying to understand the nature of planet Solaris and its interaction with the crewmembers of Solaris Station, is to download the Kindle edition of the book (because that version is the best translation into English). There you will find a deeper and more detailed description of the planet than is depicted in the film, and there is a great deal of information about the history of the long-term study of the planet, the experiences of cosmonauts who interacted with Solaris, and the evolution of conflicting theories developed by scientists. 

The book is primarily about the challenge to Earth humans to communicate with a truly alien life-form in space. This is only weakly reflected in the 2002 movie treatment as well as the earlier Tarkovsky rendition (1972) wherein the theme is subordinated to an examination of human psychology and inter-human relationships. As a result, the most important character of the story, planet Solaris, a living rational organism, is strangely neglected. Lem was displeased with the 1972 film and must have been even more severely disappointed by the 2002 adaptation as neither reflected his vision or purpose. 

In our interpretation of Solaris’ behavior, we see a planet whose unstable orbit caused its consciousness to struggle to gain and maintain sanity in solitude within a hostile natural environment. Its interaction with the humans—who hover in close proximity and have invasively probed this organism which lacks independent mobility—is defensive. Its strength is entirely mental, and it uses its mind-power to counter-invade the humans’ minds, create human-like puppets and use those entities to cause psychological stress. The intention is to repel the human invaders or, as a last resort, cause them to die.

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