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Kosmicheskiy Reys: Fantasticheskaya Novella

Entry updated 16 June 2017. Tagged: Film.

Russian film (1935; vt The Cosmic Journey). Mosfilm. Directed by Vasili Zhuravlev. Written by Aleksandr Filimonov, based on the novel Vne zemli (1920; trans as Beyond the Planet Earth 1960) by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Cast includes Vassili Gaponenko, Sergei Komarov and K Moskalenko. 70 minutes. Black and white.

After their equipment is tested by experimentally sending a cat to the Moon, three people – elderly scientist Pavel Ivanovich Sedikh (Komarov), his beautiful blonde assistant, Marina (Moskalenko), and Andryusha Orlov (Gaponenko), a young boy who stows away – take off on humanity's first flight to the Moon, discovering along the way the joys of weightlessness by floating about inside their large Spaceship. Once on the Moon, they begin exploring its barren surface in their spacesuits, also relishing their ability to make tremendous leaps in the lower lunar gravity. There is a brief crisis when Sedikh falls into a crevice, though he is rescued when he alerts his crewmates about his plight with a pellet gun. The space travellers also discover the cat that had been previously sent to the Moon and safely bring the animal back with them to Earth.

This film attracted little attention when first released, in part because it was a silent film at a time when sound films had become the norm, but it can now be appreciated as an eerie anticipation of the American film Destination Moon (1950), created in the precisely the same manner: a filmmaker approached a science fiction writer (Tsiolkovsky) for his assistance in making a science fiction film; they agreed to adapt one of the writer's novels (Vne zemli trans as Beyond the Planet Earth); and they then resolved to completely disregard the novel's story in order to instead craft a realistic account of a pioneering lunar flight. In doing so, they were obviously influenced by Fritz Lang's Die Frau im Mond (1929), borrowing its devices of a female astronaut and a young stowaway, but while their spaceship was implausibly spacious, director Zhuravlev and Tsiolkovsky departed from Lang by depicting the Moon with painstaking accuracy, providing their space travellers with no absurd pockets of breathable atmosphere and correctly illustrating the effects of low gravity. Considering when the film was produced, its special effects are remarkably good, and its avoidance of melodramatic clichés makes it a significant contribution to the tradition of the Spacesuit Film. [GW]


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