This one has me puzzled.
I’ve long had an interest in SF films from behind the Iron Curtain.
These films are often accused of being slow or boring, but to a large extent that is because they seem to have been aimed at a far more intelligent audience than American SF films.
Ironically, SF was one of the areas where a Soviet era filmmaker could be mostly free of political interference – and by the 70s it was often used to express satirical comments about Communist society that would have got everyone involved jailed if they’d been said openly.
But only a few of these films actually made it to the US – and most of them in a package that Roger Corman bought so he could cut them up and use the effects sequences in his own films. Only two or three of them – like the Czech Ikarie XB – 1 (Voyage to the End of the Universe) – appeared in anything resembling their original form.
Mechte Navstrechu was used to make one of the best of Corman’s Frankenmovies, Queen of Blood (Planet of Blood). I had long assumed that, as the Soviet film Planet of Storms is far better than the films made from it (Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women) that this would be true of Mechte Navstrechu.
Well, not quite.
It is beautiful, full of rockets and alien craft. The footage of the alien world, of Mars, Phobos and the Moon are quite impressive for the era. They’ve even managed to make many of the hazards they face scientifically plausible. But it just doesn’t work as well as it should.
First of all, it is rather short – just over an hour – particularly when you consider most Soviet SF tends to be long (they didn’t have much else to do, I suppose).
Second, it has an extremely intrusive narration that runs through the entire film. We get introduced to the main characters in narration, mostly over a few scenes of them enjoying themselves together on Earth, In many of the scenes, you can see that there was unheard dialogue beneath the narration.
I am left wondering whether this film was either radically edited before its premier to produce a short official version or whether this was a condensed version created by an outside group – perhaps the East German DEFA film studios who seem to have involved themselves in some way. The rather dark ending it narrowly avoids (by resorting to one of the most overused and corny devices in the movies) would in many ways better fit the basic Soviet prejudices against individual heroics.
It is an interesting and beautiful film. But not much more than that. Perhaps completists and hardcore SF fans will find it most interesting.
English Subtitles available here)