Friday, January 12, 2024

In the Dust of the Stars (Gottfried Kolditz, 1976)


The plot of Gottfried Kolditz’s In the Dust of the Stars could have been plucked straight from episodic television: a spaceship of six crew members (four of them women, including the commander) touches down on an unknown planet in response to a distress call, only for their hosts to claim it was sent by accident; the crew laps up the local hospitality while preparing to depart, but then discovers that the call came from the planet’s native inhabitants, now oppressed and forced underground to mine a rare mineral. Viewed in the present day, the film’s allegorical aspects benefit hugely from the clear physical resemblance of the oppressors’ leader to Vladimir Putin (although they have less in common behaviorally); that aside, it’s rather hard to gauge how seriously to take the film. It often lacks even basic plausibility (for example, the crew members put themselves immediately in the hands of the planet-dwellers, including ingesting whatever’s offered to them, without taking even minimal precautions) but the prevailing earnestness doesn’t suggest (despite various mostly labored comedic touches) a parody or jape, and the overall thrust of the narrative is fairly politicized. But then it provides an array of peculiar visual flourishes, including the penchant of the local women for dancing in skimpily diaphanous outings (the movie seems well-resourced in some respects, but some of the special effects and other trappings are distinctly rickety), and the Putin character’s mixing-board-like toy at which he sits and makes music (again with accompanying dancers always on call) while his giant pet snake slithers around. The film’s ideological footprint is somewhat confused, broadly aligning itself with the resistance to the colonial occupiers, but seeming far more intrigued by the latter; it crafts its villains far more colourfully than its heroes, with the six cosmonauts having largely interchangeably non-descript personalities (one of them standing out only by virtue of an extended shower scene).  

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