Спутник / Sputnik (2020)

Director: Egor Abramenko~
Starring: Oksana Akinshina, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov, Anton Vasiliev .Russia . 1h 53m

There has always been this strange surreal nature to the epic ideas of Russian Science Fiction, be it art, animation, novella or cinema you’ll always find something so profound and lavish in the Russian culture of art. From the early Aelita (1924) to the genre defining Stalker (1979) Solaris (1972) and Visitor to Museum (1989) there’s a strong sense of new ideas and concepts so far out and esoteric it’s hard to take in but yet these films stand as testament to the ingenuity of Russian Cinematographers (using soviet brutalism and derelicts to their advantage) and Directors who work an orchestra of stunning and creepy visuals and wonderment.

Casting the audience back to 1983 to the height of the Russian space experiments, a couple of astronauts stop procedures when they hear something climbing around their shuttle, getting spooked they initiate their descent to Earth. The landing is gory and looks like a creation from Horror artist Oleg Vdovenko (https://www.artstation.com/chuvabak) brains blood and gore scatter the area around the craft but one man is still standing but looks a bit off…

The movie cuts to a hearing of a nerophyscaritst who tried to drown a young boy as part of her therapy, she stands firm by ther diagnosis and believes she was doing the right thing, despite the complaints and upcoming trail and probable firing her heart on her sleeve she’s bold brilliant and determined and about to be summoned to investigate the surviving astronaut.

There are some great stylish shots of retro wood and concrete official halls and rooms, the kind you’d expect will still hold some asbestos, but to the credit of this team it really does feel like 80’s Russia but with everything seeming so top secret and filled with military excellence some of the labs look more futuristic. The Neurophyscartist settles into her possible last role before flipping burgers for the rest of her life and starts ticking boxes and probing the crashed survivor, the results, PTSD and lots of rest.. Then she’s introduced to his little friend. It seems at night a symbiotic parasitic alien crawls out from the astronauts throat looking for nourishment.

This 5 ft creature and all it’s slime somehow crawls in and out of this guy without him ever knowing and when you find out what it eats it will have you either scratching your head or realising now B Movieish the plot has become. But I adore this unashamed side step from “Hard Sci Fi” we really do need some Alien creatures out there that we don’t understand that doesn’t mimic life on this planet and are “out of this world” much like the creature in Life (2017) there’s a strange conflict of will going on but the military, like always are desperate to try and separate the two so they are weaponise their little ET.

A peculiar dynamic is struck between Dr and Patient when she realises that his child is in an orphanage and awaiting his return, and the Dr goes about saving the day in her so brilliant it’s crazy method that isn’t really clear, and as much logic as trying to drown a child to cure them. But her hair brain scheme does lead to a lot of dangerous and exciting subplots and twists so they are easily overlooked. With only brief moments when it feels like the movie is on go, the somber cerebral scenes seem even slower but it gives the audience time to catch up with the plot which does seem a little far fetched but with such a unique freaky alien involved you have to stay for more.

Abramenko really wants you to just buy into his world and ideas, and for the most part it’s quite easy to get whisked along through a sci fi adventure that you’ve certainly not seen before but in reflection it’s a high strung romantic romp with an alien cling on but it’s so brilliantly crafted it’s hard to look away, but what else can be expected from the land truly alternative sci fi epics.

Rating: 8/10

Related: Black out (2019) Life (2017), Solaris (1972), Stalker (1979), Visitor to a Museum (1989), Dead Man’s Letters (1986), Aelita (1924)
Lists: Selected Russian Sci Fi Vol 1.
Article: The AOFA Short Introduction and History of Russian Sci Fi

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