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December 06 2005

Interviews with Joss, Nathan and Summer by German journalist Dietmar Dath. Politics, personal responsibility and Solaris love (I'm glad somebody else liked it!). German version, also.

You have to love an interview where the conversation leads Joss to discover something he hadn't known before. Good thoughts, interesting answers.
What is Solaris?
It's a sci-fi space film released a few years ago, about a space station called Solaris orbiting a planet with 'special powers'. It was misadvertised by the studio and unsurprisingly bombed at the box office -- but it's well worth checking out I think.
In fact, the film released a few years ago was a remake of the Soviet original, which was directed by Andrei Tarkovsky in the early 70s. (But you probably knew that). I didn't see the remake, and I haven't watched the original in a long long while - but it left an indelibly strange impression on me.
Really great Joss interview. I love it when he talks dirty about writing!

Lioness, Solaris is a science fiction film from a few years ago (actually, that was a remake, although the original story is by Stanislaw Lem). Joss gets it right; this is very much an emotional monotone on love and loss. If you're willing to treat science fiction as a mood piece, it works very well, dark, detached, hypnotic, a reminder that science fiction doesn't have to be about action to be good. Definitely worth checking out.
And, to chip in again, I was rewatching Restless with Joss's commentary the other night, and Joss several times notes the influence of The Limey, another Soderberg movie, on the visual style of the episode. I really must watch SS's version of Solaris now.

(ETA) I love these German interviews - Joss's, and those with Sarah and Amber. They reach so much farther than comparable U.S. media interviews.
Hey, that's the extended version of the interview that I declined to translate. So we get to see the original after all. Great find and thank you.
sister_ray - the person who did the interview contacted me, and got the full interviews posted online in both languages for us :)
Really nice interviews. Thanks.
Great interviews! Thanks for posting these.

It's always a pleasure to read Joss' interviews, but even moreso when an interviewer really gets Joss and appreciates the depth of thought that goes into Joss' work.

Now I have to check out Solaris, too.
Joss liked Solaris?? Ugh. I've tried to watch that movie twice and couldn't make it to the half-way point either time. Dull, slow, with unengaging characters, and a mystery that aroused no interest whatsoever.
Hubby and I have been waffling on Solaris for a while, but if it has Joss' endorsement, it's worth a looksee.

Ed, Netflix it.
Yeah, I'm not a Solaris fan (at least, Soderberg's version, I've never seen the original). But, great interview! I loved his thoughts on avoiding polemics, changing mood, recognizing that hilarity can coexist with tragedy, etc. And Dickens. I've always thought of Joss's TV work as Dickensian because of the long, episodic nature of it and marvelous characters and storytelling. But I'd never thought of the early signs of magical realism there, or the total lack of condescension to characters, or a few other points he discusses so eloquently.
Really substantive, really interesting.
Parts of this interview help explain to me just why I've been so taken with Joss's work. His thoughts about genre material pretty much mirror my own. (In fact, he stole them directly from my brain, and I'm going to sue, I tell you...sue!)

The part about not "transcending the genre" (a phrase I hate!) but being the genre is hitting the nail on the head. Like all the great master of any genre (and all greats are masters of some genre or realism is a genre) Joss doesn't run from his genre roots, he embraces them like a beloved child and then gives them the courage to go into places that might be a bit unfamiliar.

[ edited by bobster on 2005-12-06 22:59 ]
Ahhhh, Solaris.

"Can you tell me what's going on?"

"I could tell you what's going on, but that wouldn't tell you what's going on."

It's really a good movie, but it definitely won't be to everyone's taste.
1) Solaris (by Soderberg) is indeed, in my opinion, a good movie. Yes, it is really slow, but that's part of the game; and, anyhow, it is full of emotions, which is always good in a movie.

2) Solaris (the book by Stanislaw Lem) is quite different, in its mood. It is in a fact much more "scientific" in its approach (in particular in describing the way Solaris - the planet - was explored, etc etc...).

I don't know Tarkovsky's Solaris, but I have heard it is much like Soderberg's (or rather Soderberg's is like Tarkowsky's ;) ) rather than Lem's original book. Anyway, I enjoyed (though for different reasons) both the recent movie and the book.

I haven't read the interviews mentionned here (will do it tomorrow at work ;) ) but I'm glad that Whedon liked the style of the movie.
How I love that movie Solaris. Honestly, it's one of the best movies of this whole decenium, and it's head to head with Serenity for best Sci-Fi ever. That just makes me wanna see Gattaca so bad. I've known that Joss really like that movie (which in itself is a brand of quality) but I've just never gotten around to see it yet. But seeing it mentioned together with Solaris is just the push I needed.

Oh, and what a great interview. Not your basic questions but much more in depth and well thought out. Only thing I miss is that it's not audio, that would be even better.

EDIT: And actually, Solaris isn't really a Sci-Fi movie. It's more of a romance in sci-fi setting, but not the cheesy kind of romance but a movie that actually deal with the concept of love. hmmm... should probably stop talking 'bout that movie, it's a Joss site for god's sake... :)

[ edited by Djungelurban on 2005-12-07 00:20 ]
I like Dietmar Dath`s articles since he is one of the few German journalists who get Joss. Sadly most of the others are still writing stuff like "Simon´s sister Reaver is being hunted by Mal through the galaxy." *sighs*
Fantastic interviews. In the past few months I've read so many Joss interviews, and much as I'm always interested in them, there is a certain amount of repetition in many of them. But this is really interesting, asking much more in depth questions, and really coming from a very different place, and Joss's answers are truly revealing and insightful. I also enjoyed the Nathan and Summer one, which was good fun.

I loved Soderberg's Solaris too. Much better than the Tarkovsky (which I saw the same day I saw the Soderberg, having never seen it before). Never read the book, though.
Yes! This is the Joss interview I've been waiting for. Kiddo said it perfectly...while all of these recent interviews have been very interesting, there was quite a bit of repetition.

Great to see some really unique questions, some really in-depth thinking. I loved it!

The Summer and Nathan one was great as well.
if you don't go to the dark place, then you have not earned the light place.

I don't believe in transcending the genre. I believe in the genre.

Great article - two articulate guys having an articulate conversation
Yeah, I think these are great interviews. It's the only one I've seen recently which hasn't had the question "So, about the Spike movie.."
This interview really moved me, which I was not expecting.
It's just that... it's been so long since we've had a chance to take such a good look into Joss Whedon's thoughts.

This interviewer did a splendid job. It was a fascinating read. I wish there were 18 more pages to this.
Soderbergh's Solaris is one of my all time favorite films. If you haven't seen it check it out, really. The commentary with the director and James Cameron is very, interesting.
I remember going to see the remake of Solaris in theaters a few years back, and being one of the only people there who enjoyed it. There were audience members loudly complaining, people ditching the theater etc.

To me it's a great probing mood piece, and as such it works perfectaly. Tonally, it feels rather similar to certain sections of Objects in Space. While I understand the majority reaction of negativity, I can't help but be annoyed at the inability of the movie-going audience to watch a film for a artistic/poetic statement.

[ edited by rabid on 2005-12-07 05:58 ]
And just for kicks, here's a Soderbergh interview from this month's Wired.
I somehow doubt that "Objects in Space" was influenced by Solaris because they was both released at roughly the same time.
You said it, Joss. It's all about personal responsibility. I find that sadly lacking in society today.
I remember going to see the remake of Solaris in theaters a few years back, and being one of the only people there who enjoyed it. There were audience members loudly complaining, people ditching the theater etc.

Really, anything that isn't spoon fed, or actually requires some brain activity on the audeinces behalf, is considered boring by an awful lot of the general population. Why is that? Have we become so lazy that thought is no longer something to be admired but is seen as effort.

I liked what Joss said about Hamlet and the trend of realism. To be honest I had never thought about that, but he's very right in his thinking. Up until a few hundred years ago, most, in fact almost all writings, plays, operas, had some kind of mythical or supernatural bend to them. Not that I know a great deal about this subject. I'm sure there are quite a few Whedonesquers who know more than me. I'd be interested in knowing when the trend for realism came about, and when it was cemented into the popular culture of today. I imagine an awful lot of it was due to the latter half of last century.
Ghostbusters not withstanding. ;)
I hadn't thought of the similarity between Solaris and Objects in Space, but there is some. What is more similar, though, is Normal Again. You have a choice of two realities. One is "normal," the other has love and much more meaning.

These are great interviews, still reading.
Up until a few hundred years ago, most, in fact almost all writings, plays, operas, had some kind of mythical or supernatural bend to them. I'd be interested in knowing when the trend for realism came about

If you want to pick an event, I'd say that it was World War I, the war to end all wars. It marked a huge change in the arts, not only because so many artists went to war with idealism, and so many of them died, but the disillusionment that set in afterwards was extreme. On a smaller scale, the Spanish Civil War had a similar and reinforcing effect.

In the 19th century, Romanticism ruled, and it was a time for mythology, fantasy, grand gestures, and the lows were every bit as extreme as the highs. A lot of disillusionment was already setting in by the end of the century, but the reaction was often to reach for even more extremes. The seeds of reaction to Romanticism were developing then, too.

Then WWI happened, with all its pointless death and destruction. Reactions in the arts ranged all over the place, but visual art became dominated by things like dada and surrealism. Tolkien's worldview was shaped by his experience in the trenches and the death of his friends in the war. Writers reflected the narcissism of the 20's in books like The Great Gatsby. Then came the depression, reflected in Steinbeck's great novels, and the rise of fascism, which attracted the few remaining idealists to the Spanish Civil War, where, again, many artistic sentiments crashed and burned.

So the early 20th century really marked the death of any idea that things could be bigger or better than they are. That was the ground where realism and naturalism took root and flourished.

It's really impossible to summarize all the changes in a couple of paragraphs, but if you want to look at the history of arts and ideas to find the tipping points, that's the time period to look at.
Wow! Thank you MissKittysMom! I really enjoyed reading your post. If it wasn't so incredibly late at night, I'd respond with something better than...this.
I'm going to do a little study on that now I think. You've peaked my interest some!
MissKitysMom - great post...
My Dad always told me that I would stunt my brain by reading SF. I know it did the opposite.
Oh my. Now I wish I had some references to suggest, but so much of that came from a lifetime of reading this and that.

I can recommend a couple of great books on Russian cultural history. Besides introducing a wonderful and rich artistic heritage that isn't well known in the West, these books encapsulate nearly the whole evolution of Western Civilization, as experienced in Russia. What makes this fascinating is the collision between fully-developed western art and philosophical movements with Russia's own unique history, arts, and religion. The history of St. Petersburg is especially fascinating; it spans only 300 years, but in that time St. Petersburg grew from nothing to a city that rivaled the imperial capitals of Europe. It's an interesting mirror to our own experience and history of those centuries.

Start here: St. Petersburg: A Cultural History and go on to this one: The Icon and the Axe. The latter covers about 1000 years from the introduction of Christianity into Russia, up to the 1960's. Both books are outstanding for the way they integrate arts, history, and philosophy. I'd love to find good, readable books that do this for Western Europe! (anyone have recommendations?)
I also wondered how the timeline of the change in the way literature was regarded compared to the timeline in the expansion of literacy and the availability of books to the general public. Different times and cultures valued different kinds of art depending on who was paying for it. Did the change in who was reading help change what was considered literature? I wonder.
It's a very good post indeed, cheers for that MissKittysMom.
My brain and my eyes are loving you right now MissKittysMom!
Thanx a bunch baby! Is it just me or did the intellect level on this board just rise some? I think I'm gonna have to do something goofy to compensate. Which for me...won't be hard!
I think I'm gonna have to do something goofy to compensate

Please do! Goofy and intellectual go together just fine, as far as I'm concerned. It's one of the things that makes Jossverse shows work so well.

"There but for the grace of getting bit..." Buffy (in Doppelgangland, misquoting "There, but for the grace of God, go I" Rev. John Bradford [1510-1555])
Ahhhh I love that bit, and the fact she's misquoting. I can keep up the intellectual for only so long before the goofy comes out! Then it comes out in spades! ; )
I mostly aim for goofy. Oh, hell, I only can do goofy. Bless - give me an icecream, I'll clap for it.

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