Jmeno kodu: Rubin [Code Name: Ruby] (1997)

Just because a film starts with the space shuttle meeting a UFO that doesn’t make it science fiction.

Instead, despite all the talk about the space program, moon rocks, secret research programs and the claim that what really matters is, not who is in the White House, but who is the head of the Smithsonian Institution, Jmeno kodu: Rubin is actually an occult film.

Somehow, this has been increasingly common these days, that films that have strong elements of the occult end up adding SF elements to the mix.  Some even end up billed as SF films (the interesting Jungian reality twister, Yesterday Was A Lie, comes to mind).

Here, these seemingly SF elements tie in with Alchemy, an occult “science” often referred to as a precursor of modern chemistry.  Of course, this ignores the fact that it was only by stripping it of its symbolic and self-contradictory claims that a few people managed to find anything of value in the system.  However, the movie claims that the secret history of the 20th Century involved a battle to see who would control the Alchemical secrets of the past – and who would manage to create the legendary Philosopher’s Stone.

Even this is largely an excuse to tour some interesting historical sites in modern day Prague, and to find curious ways to edit together old historical footage and antique prints.  It is a thoroughly experimental (and I should note, controversial) film, originally made for Czech TV, which, surprisingly, manages to create a lot of suspense using old footage of Nazi SS-Obergruppenführer, Reinhard Heydrich.

The director, Jan Nemec, was one of the bright lights of the Czech New Wave, whose A Report on the Party and the Guests is one of the most brilliant films ever made about the reality of life under communism.  Of course, once the brief Prague Spring rejection of communism ended with Soviet tanks rolling in, his career, like many of his colleagues, suffered.

On the whole, this stands out as an interesting formal experiment, creating suspense and intrigue largely through tricks of editing and its dispassionate, documentary style narration.  It certainly isn’t for every taste.

But it is fascinating.

Even if it isn’t Science Fiction.

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