Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ikarie XB-1

Ikarie XB-1; science-fiction, Czech Republic, 1963; D: Jindrich Polak, S: Zdenek Štepanek, Radovan Lukavsky, František Smolik, Otto Lackovič, Jozef Adamovič

In the future, a crew of about 40 astronauts is travelling in the spaceship Ikarie XB-1 to Sun's nearest solar system, Alpha Centauri, to explore if there is life there. Due to their high speed, it will take two and half years until they get there, but 15 years will have passed on Earth. They encounter a space ship, but it turns out to be from Earth, sent there in the 20th century, while all inhabitants are dead. That ship explodes and kills two crew members. One crew member goes crazy from isolation in space and threatens to sabotage Ikarie XB-1, while one woman is pregnant and gives birth. They are also followed by a strange, unknown dark star. They finally reach Alpha Centauri's planet, and find a city on its surface,

"The Magellanic Cloud" is not among Stanislaw Lem's better SF books, but it is still superior - and far more conclusive - than the movie that was based on it, "Ikarie XB-1", which nonetheless gained cult status for being one of the handful of Czech SF films of the 20th century, thereby showing remarkable audacity. Unfortunately, remarkable audacity aside, the film itself is sadly dated: filmmed in black and white, with noticeably 60s set designs of the spaceship and uniforms, as well as disappointingly bland and one-dimensional characters in which nobody stands out, which makes the whole storyline faceless. Unlike the book, the film does not have a beginning nor an ending - it starts with the crew already travelling inside the spaceship, without showing the "why" and "how" that lead to it, and it ends with one of the worst cop-out, anticlimactic endings that abruptly terminate the story just when it became good - which makes it seems as if half of the narrative is missing, as well as some sort of an conclusion. In one sequence, for instance, after entering the Alpha Centauri system, the spaceship finds a derelict spaceship from Earth (!), with dead people inside it, sent from the 20th century, but there is no explanation as to why or how it got there. Such and other inconsistencies bother, yet one can enjoy bits and parts of it that are good, since such films were rare outside the English speaking cinema world.


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