“Sometimes love is so strong, it opens a passageway to a place…where the impossible can happen.”
–from the trailer for the Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 Solaris
presented 25 May at the Avon Theatre Film Center
For years, my friend Rolf Maurer had been telling me to see Soderbergh’s 2002 Solaris based on the 1968 novel by Stanislov Lem. But it wasn’t until we saw The American that we launched our dialogue about George Clooney and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which ended up in the Huffpost.
When I finally saw Solaris, I was mesmerized by the dramatization of love and loss between the main character of psychologist Kris Kelvin (George Clooney) and his deceased wife, Rhya (the exquisite Natasha McElhone) who reenters his life under mysterious circumstances when he is visiting a space station orbiting Solaris. Having interpreted over a thousand screenplays in my years as a Hollywood script analyst, I couldn’t remember such a ravishingly beautiful, in its fierce emotional honesty, exchange between two lovers.
The love story — contained within the cinematography as past, present and future — filtered into my subconscious, where I have been structuring the opus of a new philosophy, the hieros gamos, for the past 28 years. The film virtually blossomed through a rigid structure predicated by the puncturing of patriarchal relationship patterns that undermine feminine intuition. As healers of the psyche, psychologists have the mission to penetrate these debilitating repetitions of behavior. While his vocation on Earth was stagnated by his personal wound caused by the suicide of his brilliant and disturbed wife, the viewer gets emotionally caught up with Clooney’s protagonist’s surrender to the (r)evolution taking place on the space station. By revisiting the past via the intervention of Solaris and becoming conscious of his unwitting participation in his own fate, he is rewarded with the destiny of “eternal love.”
In the book, the symbolic passage for this immersion into a love that is “stronger than death” is a black Amazon woman whom Kris later discovers lying with his dead friend, Gibarian, after being jolted by his initial encounter with her shortly after arrival:
A number of cooridors spread out into a star-shaped pattern between the four doors of the sleeping quarters and the narrow passage to the radio-cabin. Suddenly, looming up in the opening which led to the communal bathroom, a tall silhouette appeared, barely distinguishable in the surrounding gloom. I stood stock still, frozen on the spot. A giant Nigress was coming silently towards me with a smooth, roiling gait. I caught a gleam from the whites of her eyes and heard the soft slapping of her bare feet. She was wearing nothing but a yellow skirt of plaited straw; her enormous breasts swung freely and her black arms were as thick as thighs. Less than a yard separated us, but she did not give me as much a glance. She went on her way, her grass skirt swinging rhythmically, resembling one of those steatopygous statues in anthropological museums. She opened Gibarian’s door and on the threshold her silhouette stood out distinctly against the bright light from inside the room. Then she closed the door behind her and I was alone.
Terror stricken, I stared blankly around the big. empty hall. What had happened? What had I seen? Suddenly my mind reeled as I recalled Snow’s warnings. Who was this monstrous Aphrodite? (p. 30)
This image of the Black Madonna is transformed into a female scientist, Dr Gordan, an invented character in Soderbergh’s Solaris. The actress Viola Davis makes visible and material the primordial fear ignited by the mysterious “visitors,” whose very presence causes the space station inhabitants to question the very meaning of what it means to be human.
The lasting value of this highly philosophical book is its examination of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in the face of the collapsing quantum wave ushering in a paradigm shift, the subject of my recent paper. Lam in his internal marriage of imagination with science, gave form to the collapsing wave in the Solaris ocean:
In all their movements, taken together or singly, each of these branches reaching out of the ocean seemed to display a kind of cautious but not feral alertness, a curiosity avid for a quick apprehension of a new, unexpected form, and regretful at having to retreat, unable to exceed the limits set by a mysterious law. The contrast was inexpressible between that lively curiosity and the shimmering immensity of the ocean that stretched away out of sight…I had never felt its gigantic presence so strongly, or its powerful changeless silence, or the secret forces that gave the waves their regular rise and fall. I sat unseeing, and sank into a universe of inertia, glided down an irresistible slope and identified myself with the dumb, fluid colossus; it was as if I had forgiven it everything. within the slightest effort of word or thought. (203-204)
This physical confrontation with ocean concludes a narrative preoccupied with examining the scientific method removed from human experience. The “ocean” that mirrors the human mind in creating “visitors” as the materialization of human processes of evolution gives rise to Solaristics, which satirizes the academization of modern science inherent in Cartesian thought:
In his introduction, Gravinsky divided the first sixty years of Solarist studies into periods. During the initial period, which began with the scouting ship that studied the planet from orbit, nobody had produced theories in the strict sense. “Common sense’ suggested that the ocean was a lifeless chemical conglomerate, a gelatinous mass which through its ‘Aquasi-volcanic’ activity produced marvelous creations and stabilized its eccentric orbit by virtue of a self-generated mechanical process, as a pendulum keeps itself on a fixed path once it is set in motion. To be precise, Magenon had come up with the idea that the ‘colloidal machine’ was alive three years after the first expedition, but according to the Compendium the period of biological hypotheses does not begin until nine years later, when Magenon’s idea had acquired numerous supporters. The following years teemed with theoretical accounts of the living ocean, extremely complex, and supported by biomathematical analysis. During the third period, scientific opinion, hitherto practically unanimous, became divided.
There were some powerful synchronicities that happened on the way to tonight’s presentation of Solaris at the Avon Theatre Film Center.
For one, I attended the much anticipated return of Ralph Lemon at Brooklyn Academy of Music, and was amazed to see SOLARIS excerpted contained within the theme that I interpreted in my Huff Post review as the sacred marriage of heaven and earth.
For another, I was preparing a paper summing up my 28 year passage to uncover this archetype as a new art theory, when I came across the term Robert Fludd’s infans solaris connected with the lapis (Philosopher’s Stone) in Dr. Remo Roth’s psychovision.ch interpreting the 21st century icon (the Seal of Solomon or hieros gamos) through a dialogue between 20th century prophets Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung.
This description of the “Sun’s child” applies to the Ocean, truly the novel’s chief character, as the two main characters conclude:
“Nothing at all to do with the principle of Good and Evil,” I broke in immediately. ”This god has no existence outside of matter. He would like to free himself from matter, but he cannot…”
Snow pondered for a while.
“I don’t know of any religion that answers your description. That kind of religion has never been…necessary. If I understand you, and I’m afraid I do, what you have in mind is an evolvign god, who develops in teh course of time, grows, and keeps incresing in power while remaining aware of his powerlessness. For your god, the divine condition is a situation wthout a goal. And understanding that, he despairs. But itns’t this despairing god of yours mankind, Kelvin? Iti s a man you are talking about, and that is a fallacy, not just philosphically but also mystically speaking.”
I kept on:
“No, it’s nothing to do with man. Man may correspond to my provisional definnition from some points of view, but that is because the definiton has a lot of gaps. Man does not create gods, in spite of appearances. The times, the age, impose thme on him. Man can serve his age or rebel against it, but the target of his cooperation or rebellion comes to him from outside. if there was only a single human being in existence, he would apparently be able to attempt the experimetn of creating his own goals in compete freedom — apparently, because a man not brought up among other human beings cannot become a man. And the being–the being I have in mind–cannot exist in the plural, yousee?”
“Oh, then in that case…” He pointed out of the window.
“No, not in the ocean either. Somewhere in its development it has probably come close to the divine state, but it turned back into itself too soon. It is more like an anchorite, a hermit of the cosmos, not a god. It repeats itself, Snow, and the being I’m thinking of would never do that. Perhaps he has already been born somewhere, in some corner of the galaxy, and soon he will have some childish enthusiasm that will set him putting out one start and lighting another. We will notice him after a while…”
“We already have,” Snow said sacrcastically. ”Novas and supernovas. According to you they are candles on his altar.”
“If you are going to take what I say literally…”
“And perhaps Solaris is the cradle of your divine child..”
(excerpted from Stanislava Lem’s Solaris, pp 197-199)