Interkosmos is a great little mock doc about a Soviet space program that really existed and a mission to the outer planets that is a pure flight of fantasy. Imagine The Right Stuff as done by Tarkovsky with the low budget of American Astronaut thrown in for good measure.
This is such a realistically Soviet-kitchy looking film that I had to keep reminding myself that it was done by the American director Jim Finn who has the Soviet look and feel down pat. I’ll bet at heart Finn is a true Marxist disgusted by the failed Soviet experiment... or maybe he just likes clunky looking films loaded with Soviet nostalgia. And like The American Astronaut, Finn has used an original score of music ranging from martial airs to Soviet-pop-rock-whatever-the-heck-it-is that is as good as his fake Soviet imagery.
Art Imitates Life
Intercosmos was a real program worked up by the Soviets in the 70’s to fly cosmonauts from other countries into space on Soviet missions. In Interkosmos we learn about a secret East German/Soviet attempt to establish bases on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The idea is so patently absurd that you simply have to go along with it to see where it will end up.
The film is made as if it were an assembled collection of “historical footage” of the mission from its inception through to its unsuccessful end. Through it all is that NASA-like quality of catching the moment for posterity. We are introduced to the cosmonauts from many nations, India, Mongolia, DDR (East Germany), and of course the USSR who are joining socialist hands in a united effort to bring the cosmos to the workers. It just makes you want to hold your firmly muscled jaw high and sing The International which in fact is playing in the background.
We follow our brave comrade cosmonauts through their rigorous, sometimes bizarre training. Eventually the mission begins. Two capsules with two cosmonauts each head off into space, one bound for Jupiter and the other for Saturn.
“Wait a minute!” you are saying to yourself,” the Soviets never got a manned flight out of low Earth orbit. How the hell are they going to make it to the outer planets?” Never underestimate the visionary reach of the people’s space program! In short it’s a lunatic’s idea but they all trudge on, eyes to the stars.
Trolleys, Guinea Pigs, and Field Hockey
In a charming side story, the pilots of the two missions have fallen in love, so naturally they are sent in separate capsules. Finn does an amusing bit where we listen in on their dry conversations that are chopped into moments of silence as the radio signals travel across the solar system. “How are you doing?”... minute pause.... “Nominal, but I can’t get that ‘Trolly Song’ out of my head”... minute pause... “What Trolly Song?” ... minute pause... “You know the one... ‘Klang, Klang Klang went the trolly...” ... minute pause... “I don’t know it.” ... minute pause... “Yes you do...”and so forth. Eventually he ends up singing the whole song and she still doesn’t know it. LIfe is like that sometimes in space.
The grand plans for colonization are documented with tragically cheesy models of a worker’s amusement park on Ganymede. If ever there was a visual demonstration of the word ‘risible’ this is it. But it’s not all hard work and high hopes, there is also a poor DDR-style stop-motion animation of the space adventures of the “meerschweinchen,” i.e. “pig from (across) the sea” AKA a guinea pig. We are told that the meerschweinchen has been chosen to be the the official mascot of the Intercosmos Space Program. The animation is really not that different in thought and execution from the old Muppet Show “Pigs In Space,” only done by the US Treasury Department as the official heroic/cute mascot of short term bonds.
In the end, radio contact with the capsules is lost, and the plug is quickly pulled on the project. The people associated with it are scattered to the winds. We are told that later a rumor arose that the whole program was a desperate attempt to preserve the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, by launching copies of communist orthodoxy into orbit around Jupiter... a similar concept to the gold laser disk recording of Earth (read American) culture affixed to the Voyager spacecraft on its trip out of the solar system.
And no review of Interkosmos would be complete without mentioning the choreographed close-order drill of the women’s field hockey teams from Moscow University and Patrice Lumumba Polytechnic Institute... at least I think that’s what it was. In a comment I found online, Finn says that the ‘dance number’ comes at exactly 1/2 way through the film and acts as an intermission... exactly what I thought too.
If there was ever a film short that should be shown on the SciFi channel, this is it. But it probably never will. Rather that wait for hell to freeze over, get a copy of this gem and enjoy it yourself.
There are none
Picture and Sound
Both are adequate; neither will push your home theater. The music is as original as the film and as appropriate too... good work guys!
How to Use this DVD
Is Interkosmos a wickedly clever send-up of Communism or a slightly sad parody of the hopes of the working class? You be the judge.