Seven Elements [Sem stikhiy] (1984)

What with one thing and another, I haven’t watched much Russian SF lately.

I suppose it is because I’ve seen most of the better known examples and haven’t felt like watching some of the darker films like The Thirteenth Apostle or Konstantin Lopushansky‘s Russian Symphony.  But I got lured into watching this one because of its interesting SF elements and short length (after all, it is difficult to find nearly three hours to watch a film!).

A probe sent to a distant planet has brought back a mysterious underwater flower that is the only surviving lifeform on the devastated world.  Meanwhile, a famous scientist is working on an energy project designed to channel more of the Sun’s energy to a high-tech power plant, and a journalist encounters a mysterious woman who saved his life when he was a child…

As was often the case with Soviet era SF, Sem Stikhiy was based on a Soviet SF novel, in this case, a 1979 effort by Vladimir Shcherbakov.  I find myself mildly surprised that it wasn’t older, as the movie reminds me more of those they made in the Sixties or Seventies than those from the Eighties  In the Eighties, with the Soviet state breaking down, filmmakers often used their status as science fiction as an opportunity to engage in veiled criticisms of Soviet life.  Instead we have the familiar Soviet SF themes of progress and unity with alien worlds which dominate most of the less-ideological SF films from Planet of Storms on.

Which you have to admit was a lot safer.

However, it does veer from the old Soviet movie orthodoxy in that not one, but two of the characters managed to end up with the girl — and that even after not one, but all four of them risk their lives for their missions.

That would never have happened back in the Sixties, when the characters in these sorts of films would end up arguing over which one of them would get the glory of sacrificing himself for the collective!

In many respects, this one reminds me a bit of the British miniseries from the Sixties, A for Andromeda, which also involves an alien message that leads to the creation of a young woman.  However, it is played in a more dream-like and surreal way here, without any of the questions about the motives of those who sent her which show up in the British series (and its 1995 knock-off, Species).

Also worth noting is the futuristic car which shows up here.  I found myself wondering if it were one of Giugiaro’s show cars from the Seventies, but instead it turns out to have been a one of a kind Russian homebuilt show car, the Pangolina, based on the seriously boring VAZ 2101.

This was an interesting effort, although it is not one of the great Soviet SF films by any means.  On the whole it seems rather tame — it’s hard to believe that the raucous satiric SF comedy, Kin Dza Dza!, would come out only two years later.  But there are some interesting ideas, even if one does have to accept the normal sedate pace of Soviet era SF.

Which, yes, is another way of saying that it is slow.

(Subtitles available here)

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