If you are a Sci-Fi fan you might have come across all sorts of different films: long and short, good and bad, new and old. Furthermore, you might have gone out of your way to catch that unseen gem or attend an all-nighter, ahem… Well, if oldies are the sort of thing you want to see, I recommend having a look at the latest season in the BFI – Kosmos: A Soviet Space Oddyssey.
As part of the season, I attended the screening of “Der schweidende Stern” aka Silent Star or “This first spaceship in Venus”. The film is a co-production of East Germany and Poland, made at the Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA) film studios and for its time it was indeed a big-budget one. The story is based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem about an expedition to Venus where the international crew of the Cosmokrator spaceship encounter what is left of a civilisation that brought destruction upon themselves. So, why is an East German/Polish production part of this Soviet-themed season? Well, simple enough, in the film the Soviets are portrayed as being all-inclusive and offer their ship, the Comokrator, to an international team of scientists. The team include a Chinese linguist, an Indian mathematician, a Japanese medic, an African (country not specified) communications officer, an American astrophysicist, a Polish engineer and a German pilot… Great!
The team is sent to Venus because a strange (alien) cylindrical rock was unearthed in the Gobi Desert and after initial examinations it is found that the cylinder contains some communications sent by the inhabitants of Venus. While on route the team discovers that the message is actually a warning about an imminent attack on Earth… The film presents us a very interesting Venus and even a Venusian city, the atmosphere of the planet is dense and very reminiscent of… the 60s!
The Der schweigende Stern does not escape the opportunity of presenting some propaganda, for instance, the Americans are shown as not very cooperative and I really liked the whiskey-enhanced discussion they have while trying to convince their compatriot not to go in a Soviet mission. Also, the ghost of Hiroshima shows its face in more than one occasion and the references to the horrors of atomic war are ever present.
So, if you find that Harry Potter does not have the appeal for you on a rainy Sunday evening, try having a look at what is on offer at the BFI.