There were several entertaining science fiction films produced by the East German studio DEFA (like Eolomea and In the Dust of the Stars). This isn’t one of them, but it would like to be. Jim Finn lovingly satirizes or idolizes Soviet era futurism with a fictional mission to the moons of Ganymede and Titan. They never make it. Instead, the two lost crews end up somewhere in outer-space, where experimental film, kitschy fetishism, and the DIY impulse intersect in Finn’s Interkosmos, which premieres Monday on OVID.tv.
There really was an Interkosmos agency that was tasked with facilitating collaborations between the Soviet space program and those of their socialist allies (a.k.a. Captive Nations), as well as non-aligned nations receptive to Soviet overtures. That is why the Indian Cosmonaut with the call-sign “Seagull” was allowed to apply for the mission. As luck would have it, she is paired-up with “Falcon,” a friend from her Russian studies, with whom she shares some ambiguous romantic connection.
Finn’s screenplay is less of a conventional narrative and more like a treatment that establishes the back-story and alternate history of the failed mission to colonize the Galilean Moons. In fact, much of his intra-agency details are archly amusingly for old school Cold War observers. His hand-crafted sets and props also have their grungy charm. In many ways, Finn’s Interkosmos plays like a much smarter version of Tom Sachs’ A Space Program, which it also predated by about ten years.
Unfortunately, Finn sometimes gives us too much of his idiosyncratic vision. There are several long, drawn-out monotone lectures on the supposed superiority of socialism over capitalism (and freedom) that might (or might not) be intended as satire but eventually become punishment. Interkosmos is the first of Finn’s so-called “Communist Trilogy” that concluded with The Juche Idea. Both clearly engage with the images of propaganda, but Interkosmos is much more ambiguous in its presentation.
Of course, the Soviet space program has yet to even reach our moon, let alone the Galilean Moons. On the other hand, Russian still kept its space program in business. Ironically, here in America, we have seen the last three administrations neglect the space program, to the point of effectively privatizing it, but maybe that is just as well. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are probably more willing to take risks for the sake of innovation (and bear the necessary costs) than our elected politicians. Be that as it may, Interkosmos stokes nostalgia for the heyday of space exploration and the pop culture of the Cold War era. Earning a mild recommendation for those who can dig its aesthetics, Interkosmos starts streaming this coming Monday (10/25) on OVID.tv.