Login

Out Of The Present Review

Image for Out Of The Present

Documentary about the MIR space station during 1991 and 1992.

★★★★

In May 1991, Soviet cosmonauts Anatoli Arzenarsky and Sergei Krikalyov, and British "researcher" Helen Sharman joined the crew of the MIR space station. Sharman returned to Earth after eight days, Arzenarsky was rotated home five months later, but political manoeuvrings meant Krikalyov had to spend ten whole months in orbit. By the time he came home, in March of 1992, Gorbachev (who had talked to him via a radio hook-up) was gone and replaced by Yeltsin, his birthplace of Leningrad had become St. Petersburg again and the country which backed his mission had ceased to be the Soviet Union and become Russia.

Eventually, someone will make a fiction film about this mission, but it is unlikely to be as oddly absorbing as this patchwork documentary account. It mixes the traditional grainy video images we know from TV coverage of space missions with startlingly clearer 35mm footage taken with a film camera Krikalyov lugged into near space. Sometimes, the camera looks in on the MIR crew members as they clown about - narrator Arzenarsky seems almost embarrassed by the childishness of their floating games - and cope with the daily grind by exercising on a treadmill.

There are hints at the politicking, but the isolation makes it impossible for the crew to react. Krikalyov is repeatedly quizzed about the changes in Russia, which must make his homecoming as disorienting as that of Heston in Planet Of The Apes, but he is unable to answer and instead talks about how in space day changes swiftly to night. Some of the best footage is of malfunctioning equipment or merely peering out of the window for slow, uninterrupted looks at the Earth. A fascinating document.

Some of the best footage is of malfunctioning equipment or merely peering out of the window for slow, uninterrupted looks at the Earth.

More from Empire