Kazakhstan, early 1961. Daniel Pokrovsky, a medical officer, currently works for the first Soviet cosmonauts' troop. There Daniel, already married, finds himself in an incredibly complicated and yet tender relationship with a young girl, called Vera. Later Daniel goes back to Moscow where is in charge of the health of the future cosmonauts. He tries not to be just a doctor for the cadets, but also their friend. He can't agree with the fact that these young men could have to sacrifice their lives for the country. His wife Nina feels the same: she doesn't accept him participating in a project that could put human lives at risk, therefore she keeps asking Daniel to leave his job. Daniel decides to leave his wife. Then one of the cadets dies and the medical officer ends up breaking down. This doesn't stop him from leaving for Kazakhstan in order to prepare the launch of the first man into space. Nina follows him to Kazakhstan, where she learns about his involvement with Vera; however she ... Written by
Venice Film Festival
I'll probably be shot down in flames for this but I was tired and glad when this movie ended. It's been called "the Russian Right Stuff" and "the best movie of 2008" but I just can't see it.
It's a sad, soulful Russian movie about a handsome doctor stuck out in a wilderness that's hardly distinguishable from a gulag, with a few others, including his faithful mistress, working on a project that is almost entirely offscreen. The unconvincing tailcone of a rocket slowly wheels past, and near the end two of the cast (one called "Yuri" - Gagarin?) pose in spacesuits that are a couple of notches better than the one in "Robot Monster", but hardly look waterproof, let alone airtight. Otherwise, there's nothing to tell you it's anything to do with space travel. He gets very depressed and sick, goes back briefly to his wife in Moscow, she follows him back to the gulag, and everyone is embarrassed when she meets the mistress, but his ill-health makes them sink their differences.
There are one or two shots that are stunning for their sheer improbability, like a distant lift-off behind a stoical camel against a vast plain of slush. I'm not asking for SF bells and whistles or bleeps and roars and distorted cheeks, but if they wanted a movie about character, they could have set this one all on a collective farm. Space travel is too big a subject to push (literally) into the distant background like this.
And all the doctors smoke like chimneys.
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