The imagined worlds of sci-fi films have to be projected as being founded on both ‘rational scientific’ reasoning and at the same time have ‘no normative ground’. This gives the genre a precarious relationship with not only past and present, but also reality. This could equally be said for socialist realism, which frequently featured films with no normative ground in reality while sporting a logical rationality of what the future would be like. Science fiction, in cinema and literature, gives concrete projections of future, which are both plausible and farfetched.
In the Eastern Bloc, science fiction was one of the most cherished film genres. As the genre has functioned worldwide, communist science fiction films were able to fulfill the cinematic medium’s potential of creating imagined worlds. Despite this fact, the science fiction films never became mass-produced. In the Soviet Union, in particular, the genre never really took off. In his brief history of the Soviet sci-fi cinema in Sight and Sound (July 2011), James Blackford lists only about 20 Soviet productions, from Aelita (1924) to Zero City (1989), but this is from an industry that made an average of 150 films per year. What were obstacles for producing sci-fi films on a large scale? In this paper, I will argue that there are three ways in which we view this lack of focus: (1) large production cost, (2) socialist realist concerns and (3) issues of colonialism.
The paper will look at four Eastern European sci-fi films, Silent Star (1960), Icarus XB 1 (1963), Signal (1970) and Pilot Pirx’s Inquest (1979). Nearly, all these films are made in coproduction and with the international cast. Two of the films are made by East German and Polish film companies and one in collaboration with Tallinn film studio in Estonia. Three of the films are based on Stanislaw Lem’s stories and one by Calos Rauch, but all have Russian characters, who perform various roles during each film. As professors, scientists, captains of spacecrafts or more ordinary members of space crews, these Russian characters are adhering to the projecting of socialist realism, where harmony and international friendship was the backbone of a full communist future.
Crossing Spatial, Temporal and Political Boundaries in Science Fiction Cinema, University of Central Lancashire, 23 June, 2014