Outer space is one of the most fascinating unknown realms to human curiosity. We have studied the stars, created telescopes, and moved on to creating satellites that send images from space, and space crafts that have carried astronauts on to the moon. Our fascination with space continues as more progress is made. The Spacewalker, directed by Dmitriy Kiselev, shows us a fascinating depiction of a true story based on the world’s first cosmonauts in space in 1965.
Set during the heat of the Cold War, completely from the Russian point of view, the film begins as USSR prepares to compete with USA for supremacy in space. As the synopsis outlines, “Both superpowers aim to be the first to have a man walk in outer space. To accomplish this feat, no price is too high and no risk is too great. Now it’s up to the unlikely duo of a seasoned war veteran and a hot-headed test-pilot to fulfil this mission.” The mission Volshod 2 was conducted on March 18-19, 1965 and the chosen ones were Alexey Leonov and Pavel Belyavev. Of course the mission faces hurdles – Pavel gets injured and is to be replaced but Leonov’s insistent push inspires him to get back to the fitness needed for the mission. When Leonov is in space, conducting his walk, he realises his spacesuit is filling with pressure and he can’t move his joints. After an orbit, the spacecraft has to be manually landed – will they land in USSR or somewhere else? Will the state choose the astronauts’ lives over protection of its secrets? These are some of the physical and moral dilemmas that we’re brought up close to in this film.
The space drama creates the largeness and fascinating images through powerful NVIDIA graphics. Long aerial shots of the earth and a juxtaposition between the space graphics and inner spacecraft workings bring us up close to the action, making the audience very much a part of the story. The inner worlds of the human dilemmas and the outer space world create an amazing contrast, and yet a unity exists between them.
The narrative runs smoothly and very cleverly and engagingly takes us through the mindsets of this competitive environment, and all the hurdles such a large mission faced, interspersed with heart warming moments of relationships. The little tugs of war between the authority to make it happen in time, while also looking after the safety of their staff and the relationships of the two chosen cosmonauts with each other as well as with family is subtle yet rich.
The film was made in consultation with the man himself, Alexey Leonov and that adds a further genuine touch to the story. Performances by all actors are very natural and likeable.
The Spacewalker opens up the audience to new worlds and is very inspiring for adults as well as young children. It shows what a ‘never say die’ attitude truly is, and what it takes to survive in space, and once back on earth. A must watch for everyone.
The Spacewalker will be screened at ACMI as a part of the Russian Resurrection Film Festival. The film festival opened on Thursday November 9. Details on the festival and The Spacewalker can be found here.