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Cliff Martinez Solaris: Original Soundtrack Review

Soundtrack. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Brooding soundtrack to Soderbergh's remake of the classic sci-fi film. Set adrift in...

Chris Jones 2003

Before Solaris's release critical fears ran high that re-making a film, seemingly set in stone by Andrei Tarkovsky, was folly of the highest order. Thus, all aspects of the project fall prey to the same harsh scrutiny.

So it is with considerable relief that Stephen Soderbergh, when having another crack at filming Stanislaw Lem's classic tale of loss and misunderstanding, chose his soundtrack with exemplary care. Long-time collaborator, Cliff Martinez, has produced music that more than meets the challenge.

Lem's novel concerns a psychiatrist's attempts to comprehend the fate of a scientific expedition to the distant planet Solaris, a world shrouded in a nebulous living ocean. On arrival he discovers the planet's incredible secret. It can steal into the subconscious and make our desires real. Without spoiling the plot too much it is not entirely insignificant that Chris Kelvin (said shrink) is still mourning a lost love - the beautiful Rheya.

Soderbergh, in his brief sleeve notes pays homage to Martinez's pivotal role in helping the director to tell the story. While the titles all refer to distinct sections of the film the overall feeling is of a floating, dreamlike wash of sound and gamelan-like percussiveness.

Strings are muted and orchestration so subtle as to be almost non-existent (respect to ex-Zappa sidekick Bruce Fowler for this light touch). In other words the music perfectly captures the mood of the film. A brooding slow, meditative work that is never afraid to leave the viewer/listener to draw their own conclusions. And to be set adrift like Kelvin himself. Not in the vast emptiness of space, but in the infinitely more chilling abyss of the subconscious.

Like Soderbergh's icily muted cinematic palette, Martinez's textures are at once samey, yet never boring. Paradoxical? Yes. But to see the film is to understand what a challenge it was to convey the kind of existentialism that mainstream Hollywood is normally so bereft of. Just for once this is thoughtful stuff; music for adults.

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