50th anniversary of a masterpiece
The sometimes overlooked sci-fi classic ‘Ikarie XB 1’ is predominantly known – and quite rightly so – as an important precursor of Gene Rodenberry’s original Star Trek TV series and Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, where the influence is greater than the later productions have generally acknowledged.
Jindrich Polák made the film from behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia during 1963, a year after the Cuban missile crisis and against the backdrop of escalating American troops arriving in Vietnam. Set in the distant future, an interstellar starship stumbles across a ‘pre-historic’ space vessel from the 1960’s, full of Cold War nuclear weapons and dead bodies that had succumbed to a combination of radiation and lethal in-fighting.
The crew distance themselves from their ancestors as we might from appalling acts from the past. This is a sophisticated bunch, a mix of genders, ages and nationalities living in harmony, almost a prototype for the Starship Enterprise. They embody principles from the Enlightenment, Marx and William Morris’ Utopianism – an antithesis of the horror relic – but it comes across, at least, now, as surprisingly dystopian; a civilised society which has traded the soul for rationalism.
It sets up an intriguing correspondence of ideas, underlining a commonality of thought from oppositional intellectuals that crossed the NATO/Eastern Block divide; one that condemned both sides in equal measure. Polák adapted it from ‘The Magellanic Cloud’ (‘Obłok Magellana’), a 1950’s novella from Stanisław Lem, who also provided the source material for Andrei Tarkovsky’s later existential sci-fi masterpiece, ‘Solaris’.
Crucially, the film arrived during the same year as ‘Something Different’ (Věra Chytilová) and ‘Black Peter’ (Miloš Forman) and picked up on the same groundswell of dissension that drove the Czechoslovak New Wave and, ultimately led to the Prague Spring five years later.cheap cialis online pharmacy cialis girl price of cialis at walgreens order cialis over the counter cialis 5 mg cost walgreens cialis fast shipping cialis price per pill walmart
Polák’s reluctance to speculate on the form of extraterrestrial intelligence feeds directly into ‘A Space Odyssey’.