Offscreen 2011: Ikarie XB-1 / Voyage to the end of the universe (1963)

This Czech sci fi pearl is a real gem. The director is Jindrich Polák.

STORY

We follow a crew on board of a space ship, Ikarie (Icarus) in the 22nd century, who just started their 28 months journey from Earth  towards Alpha Centauri to seek out if there is life on one of the planets orbiting that sun.

They have left Earth and their loved ones behind in this uncertain voyage, knowing they’ll be much younger when they will return; the journey of 28 months will have made 15 years pass on Earth (if I explain that correctly). On this voyage, we see how they live their lives on board and adapt to life in space.

On their voyage, they face several troubles. They come about an old space station on which everyone died, unsure what happened. The Ikarie crew find out that it’s a 20th century station and realize too late it has nuclear weapons. The away-mission crew perish when one of the nuclear heads goes off. In response to this unfortunate accident and having lost 2 of his crew, the captain (of the 22nd century crew), criticizes the 20th century for its cruelty and barbaric behaviour (citing Hiroshima, the Holocaust, …). So we learn that the 22nd century has evolved to a more pacifist era, beyond the need for nuclear means. But the 20th century isn’t all bad, is said to the captain, when playing a piano excerpt from a contemporary composer (so sorry, I forgot to remember the name of the composer).

Soon after this loss, the ship succumb to a strange illness where people fall unconscious for no reason. It started when two of the crew who had worked on the hull of the ship succumb, but soon after, we notice the ship is affected by this phenomenon. It is believed due to a radioactive black star which had positioned itself between the ship and the sun. As the ship falls under a sudden sleep, the ship goes forth on its voyage…

OPINION

Not like any sci fi outer space movie I’d expected. Though the very sixties feel, it had its own little world that worked very well. You must admire the production this movie had.

I loved the camera shots. They must have had a great d.o.p., because how the actors were put to frame was nicely done.

The only thing I can say is, if you can get the opportunity to see it (which I can imagine, is not that easy… I think), you should grab it. I was told that they made a dubbed US version, and colored it (yes the movie is black&white, but that’s a good thing, people!!!) with an alternative ending! Why that is done, is beyond me! But anyway, a recommendable movie!

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