Ikarie XB-1

ikarie_xb1_9

Rather blandly retitled as ‘Voyage To The End Of The Universe” in some English-speaking markets, the snappily-monikered Ikarie XB-1 (the title alludes to Icarus, the Greek mythological character who flew too close to the sun) is a rather wonderful trailblazing sci-fi from 1963. Set a couple of centuries in the future, it follows a spaceship on a mission to a distant star system in the hopeful search for life.

Technically brilliant, there’s a devout attention to detail across the board, particularly in the impressive production design (the influence on Stanley Kubrick is plain to see); only a robot called Patrik who looks like an antique toy dates poorly.

But Ikarie XB-1’s real strengths lie in its ideas: the script ponders the impact of relativity, of extraterrestrial life, of the unhinging claustrophobia of long-term space travel. A classic of Eastern bloc filmmaking, it summons that early thrill of discovery and dread of the unknown that the space programme once invoked.

Ikarie XB-1 is out on DVD next week.

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