Saturday, January 29, 2011

Guests from the Galaxy

Gosti iz galaksije; science-fiction grotesque, Croatia/ Czech Republic, 1981; D: Dušan Vukotić, S: Žarko Potočnjak, Lucie Zulová, Ksenija Prohaska, Rene Bitorajac, Ljubiša Samardžić, Ivana Andrlová, Jasminka Alić, Cvijeta Mesić, Markéta Fiserová

Dubrovnik. Robert is an absent-minded man obsessed with science-fiction, much to the dismay of Biba, his girlfriend. He is currently writing a story about three superhuman aliens from galaxy Arkana; female android Andra and two kids, Targo and Ulu. One night, he is summoned to a nearby island and is shocked to meet aliens - Andra, Targo and Ulu, precisely his creations. He thinks that his mind can create objects and creatures. This causes numerous complications with people who don't believe him, until Biba confirms his story and tourists start flocking to the island in mass curiosity. The aliens settle at Robert's place while his neighbor, photographer Toni, wants to make a photo of them. After the alien pet creature, Mumu, attacks and kills some people, Robert decides to leave Earth with them.

Science-fiction movies made outside the US are a rare experience, while science-fiction movies made in Croatia (then still part of Yugoslavia) and Czech Republic (then still part of Czechoslovakia) - in a joint production - is an even rarer curiosity. Cult film "Guests from the Galaxy" is the darnedest thing: it cannot be recommended, but it has so many extravagant, daring, mad and surreal moments that it has to be seen, because something like that was never tried out before in Croatia. The beginning of the film is good and stimulates the imagination by revolving around the science-fiction buff Robert who meets aliens from his own unpublished story - there is something special in the sight of the android woman Andra and two alien kids standing on top of a cliff, with the sea in the background, while the main protagonists observes them in awe. The special effects are surprisingly good, both in conjuring up the UFO in the shape of a glowing blue sphere and some psychedelic colors, like in the scene where Robert touches Andra five times, and each time the scene "freezes" for a second, while some green colors appear in the background. Likewise, the films scores a few plus points with an occasional good joke, like when a security guard keeps claiming he was abducted by aliens at night, then a kid mumbles: "UFO" and he confirms that's "what it's called" but some listener just says: "Yeah, and then you woke up with an empty bottle besides you."

Unfortunately, for every good joke, there is a bad one. Director Dusan Vukotic was an acclaimed master of animation, but in this case the film at times seems like some dumb cartoon, which wrecks the mood and seems the author himself didn't know what he wanted to say. For instance, Andra waves at Robert but Targo shoots a laser from his eyes and blows out her middle finger (?). She then "repairs" her finger and uses a laser whip to slap Targo's fingers. The sequence where some thirty tourists are searching for the aliens in the cave and then get the "bright idea" of stripping naked (!) so that the extraterrestrials will see they don't carry any weapons is unbelievably stupid whereas the sequence where the giant Mumu, a 7-foot tall pet that seems like a junction between a giant rat and Hellraiser, attacks people at a party and decapitates some, cemented the film's trashy tone. There are echoes of themes of escapism in the world of imagination from the bland reality, the story is brave and the locations in Dubrovnik are always good, yet "Guests" are a patchwork, a film all over the place that ultimately turns more into a "guilty pleasure" and an obscure curiosity, though it has its moments, mostly revolving around the charming performance by Ksenija Prohaska as Andra.


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