Out of the Present (1995)



Director:     Andrei Ujica. 


Soviet cosmonaut delayed in space and comes back to a very changed Russia


1991.  In a Soviet space capsule there is some communication between the ground and the cosmonauts: "Mission VITYAS, do you read?"  Ground tells them that they will have to dock manually with the space station.  The docking goes well. Three cosmonauts experience weightlessness on the space station. 

Flashback.  Anatoli Artsebarski is in Starcity, near Moscow says his good-byes to his family and friends.  He will be the commander of the mission OZON.  The flight engineer for the mission will be Sergei Krikalev and the researcher will be Helen Sharman of Great Britain.  The mission will last five months.  Helen is in space right now with the mission DERBENT, but in eight days she will be with the OZON mission.  Anatoli and Sergei are taken by bus to Baykonur, where the take-off will take place.  Anatoli's son is recorded wishing his father well. 

On the roof the the hotel in Baykonur, Anatoli and Sergei get contact with the space station. 

May 18, 1991.  Together the OZON cosmonauts leave their building.  They are driven to the launching platform from which Yuri Gagarin took-off 30 years ago.  The rocket ignites and the three are thrust into space.  The final stage disconnects and they face a 49 hour trip to the space station. 

Back to the present.  They arrive on May 20.  The new arrivals have a phone conversation with President Mikhail Gorbachev.  The President congratulates them. 

Five days go by.  Helen is going back to earth on the return flight.  Sergei will end up staying 10 months in space.  Helen's space capsule lands on a very flat landscape with little vegetation.  Lots of helicopters are there to meet the capsule. 

Anatoli says that they went outside the space station six times to make various repairs.  They circled the earth every 92 minutes.  On one occasion the cooling system of his space suit failed after six hours.  Anatoli and Sergei talk with their families down below. 

August 16.  They send a freight shipment back to earth.  Another freighter brings them equipment and letters and sweets from their families.  Meanwhile, down on earth tanks and armored personnel carriers rumble through the streets of Moscow.  It is possible that the two divisions involved are the Tamanskaya and Kantemirovskaya.  Lots of people are marching in the streets.  Boris Yeltsin appeals to the Russian people.  The cosmonauts hear the news in space.  Tanks continue to roll.  At night there is a lot of activity and confusion. 

August 21, 1991.  Tanks are set on fire. 

Autumn arrives.  Another crew arrives.  Aleksandr Volkov will be the new commander.  Along with him come two researchers.   But there is no flight engineer with them.  This was a political decision.  Baykonur is in Kazakhstan and so a political decision was made to send a Kazakh as a second researcher.  The decision complicated the mission's planning.  This is why Sergei had to stay six months more in space.  Anatoli says goodbye to Sergei and returns to earth.  Left at the space station are Sergei and Aleksandr.  When Anatoli arrives back home they ask him how was the flight back.  He says:  "The launch was easier than the landing."

In the space station, Sergei and Aleksandr are informed that the U.S.S.R. is now gone.  And Gorbachev is out of power.  The name of the city of Leningrad has been changed back to St. Petersburg.  And Boris Yeltsin is in power now.  Then Sergei and Aleksandr are asked which of the changes seem the greatest to them.  But neither of the cosmonauts really answer the question. 

March 25, 1992.  After 310 days in space, Sergei comes home.  With him is Aleksandr.  Anatoli is there to greet them.  He has been promoted to Colonel.  He says he has really been missing Sergei.


Good movie.  The political part of the movie is not that much really.  The story is mostly about the space journey itself.  And you get a tiny bit of the feeling of what it might have been like back in the 1990s.  (And talk about tight quarters!  Sometimes the cosmonauts were slowly moving from one compartment to another past all kinds of equipment that invaded the passage way for the cosmonauts.)  Some of the photography was great.  I really enjoyed the first third of the movie.  I enjoyed the rest of it, too, but was at times a bit put-off by too many pictures.  This is especially so since they don't tell you what you are looking at.  My wife thought at times it dragged because of this.  But it is nice to see a movie about the cosmonauts instead of our own astronauts in the USA.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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