I know I’ll get hammered for this, but let’s start the bidding off with 2001 and the original Solaris. Everybody ‘knows’ what 2001 is about, but honestly, how many of you got that just from watching the movie once and not from the supplemental material?
And I have seen both versions of Solaris and what I watched didn’t seem t0o match up with the summaries I have read. Seems like endless nothing happening with fantasy scenes, then the end.
2001 is rather vague, I’ll grant you. And saying that “you know what it’s about from the supplemental materials” isn’t really correct. Clarke had his vision of 2001 and Kubrick had his, and the two aren’t exactly the same. Kubrick, the visual filmmaker, put everything he wanted in the movie – ambiguities and all. To his way of thinking, that’s everything right there. There are some clearly incorrect interpretations that viewers can make (a lot of people evidently thought Dr. Floyd was headed to the planet Clavius, not the Clavius lunar base), the movie still has lots of unclear things, and viewers who understand and are paying attention can still come away with different ideas of what happened and what it meant. And that was fine by Kubrick. Clarke’s the one who had the images of Blue Food in his head and directly-interfering extraterrestrials explicitly making Dave Bowman the StarChild. Me, I much prefer Clarke’s rationalism. the movie’s based on his story “The Sentinel”, but the film was a weird kinda collaborative effort.
as for Solaris, I feel it’s a bit different, since Tarkovski was adapting Stanislas Lem’s novel, and Soderbergh later adapted Tarkovski’s film into his own film, rather than going back to the novel. Lem himself didn’t feel that either film was a very good interpretation of his novel (particularly because both films concentrated on the hero’s love life. Lem said “[The] book was entitled “Solaris” and not “Love in Outer Space””. Reading the book, you can see that it’s very different from either film* in many ways, and that the direct interactions between the hero and the planet are completely absent. The earlier film, I can understand this, but the 2002 film actually used CGI for the Solaris scenes, and could have depicted scenes from the novel.
(The book, by the way, has never been properly or completely translated into English. The existing English-language version has always been a translation of a partial French translation of Lem’s book. It’s like the SF Jerusalem Bible.)
The book IS vague, though, because the point is the enormous barriers between communication between ourselves and a truly alien intelligence. At the end, Lem’s character still hasn’t achieved it. But it’s not quite as clear what’s going on in either film.
(An American short story, written, I think, in ignorance of Lem’s book, was Terry Carr’s “The Dance of the Changer and the Three”, which made the same point.
I agree that Kubrick made the movie he wanted; to me the question is, does anyone but him know what that is? Like someone once said, you don’t want your movie to be so understated that it ends up unstated.
Note: I like 2001, but a lot of what I get out of it comes from The Sentinel, Clarke’s novelization, and Lost Worlds of 2001. Of the movie itself, the only part I could really describe the plot to someone would be the transit to Jupiter section. The Stargate sequence and the starchild are more like “lots of cool visuals, and it goes on and on. It’s something you just have to experience!” but (from the movie alone) I can’t tell you a thing about what is actually happening.
I view the movie as the ‘music video’ to the novel.
As for Solaris, I admit the movie might make more sense to others, even without having read the novel, but I just don’t ‘get’ it.
For example, different film making styles can really seem odd if you aren’t used to them. the first time I saw “The Cruel Sea” my take of British film making was they didn’t follow the usual ‘plot advances building tension until the resolution and denouement’ that I was used to, instead it seemed like ‘movie moves on and on and on and on then the end’. Solaris seems like that to me, but without the benefit of a recognizable plot. Now that I am older, I appreciate the Cruel Sea more. Maybe I’m just missing something in Solaris.
I thought of another, one of my favorites from the past. Vanishing Point. As a kid, I loved watching the car action, and that was enough then. You can appreciate it on the surface level and never think about it, except to wonder why such a fun movie was so weird.
But there’s a lot there that isn’t obvious, and I wondered what drugs the filmmakers were on, because the movie as a whole doesn’t make sense and I don’t think they knew either. Is Kowalski really in psychic contact with Super Soul? Does he really exist, or is he a spirit? And what about the circular nature of the movie-is the movie meant to show that Kowalski is doomed to repeat the events over and over? Or was that just the filmmakers throwing in something they thought was cool that made no sense?
The first thing that came to mind was A Town Called Panic. It’s . . . weird. Really, really weird, in a beautiful, bizarre way. It was filmed using stop motion animation with plastic toys, and the plot revolves around them buying 50 bricks to build a barbecue, but accidentally typing in 50 million when they’re ordering them online. One of the reviewers called it “Toy Story on absinthe”, and that’s basically the best way to sum it up.
I think that sums it up quite nicely. It was only when someone pointed me at the original story (the name of which I forget) that it even remotely began to make sense.
At first I thought Aronofsky’s The Fountain was vague, in that I watched the whole thing and the only point I saw was “it’s okay that people die sometimes”. But after some investigation it turns out that that is the only point of the film, and it’s just a really long and convoluted way of making an incredibly simplistic point.