Virtual Cinema | New Restoration of Stellar Sci-Fi Drama “Ikarie XB 1” Comes to Houston April 2, 2021
“The Earth doesn’t exist! It never existed!” screams an anxious crew member of Ikarie XB 1 at the start. Existential fear and dread of space-time travel are at the core of the eponymous film, a stellar sci-fi drama that came rushing in from behind the Iron Curtain in 1963.
Hypnotic & Exceptional
The film’s hypnotic effect was immediately praised by the Western press, understanding Czechoslovakia’s first science-fiction drama as an exceptional contribution to the genre. Unlike the other Eastern Bloc films made during the Cold War, Ikarie XB 1 dared to present a future devoid of “us vs. them.” There’s no fight over power, and the horrors of war belong only to the distant past—from the vantage point of the year 2163.
Ikarie XB 1 represents a subdued version of communist futurism in the Khrushchev era, after the release of Sputnik into orbit. The international crew is excited and hopeful of reaching intelligent life on the deep-space White Planet. They trust that advances in science and technology will prevail and that humankind is better off united.
Emotional Complexity & Authenticity
It took two-and-a-half years for director Jindřich Polák—an experienced genre-film craftsman who trained with the best at Prague’s Barrandov Studios—and young screenwriter Pavel Juráček, a student at Prague’s famed FAMU film school, to finish the film. The overt ideology forced on them by the production overseers gave way to the emotional complexity depicted by the characters.
The authenticity of lived experience bound Ikarie XB 1 with the main characteristics of the Czechoslovak New Wave, which burst into existence the same year—and Juráček became one of its crucial artists. Costume designer Ester Krumbachová (who also worked on Věra Chytilová’s Daisies) and composer Zdeněk Liška, creator of the stunning electronic musical score, were also integral to that significant cinema movement of the 1960s. The gorgeous black-and-white cinematography and the A-list cast seal the deal. It’s not surprising that Ikarie XB 1 has touched many, including writer Umberto Eco and filmmakers John Carpenter, Roger Corman, and Stanley Kubrick (then preparing his 2001: A Space Odyssey).
About the Author
Irena Kovarova, a New York–based film programmer, is the founder of Comeback Company, which produces and tours retrospectives and other repertory programs.
Underwriting for the Film Department is provided by Tenaris and the Vaughn Foundation. Generous funding is provided by Nina and Michael Zilkha; The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea; Franci Neely; Carrin Patman and Jim Derrick; Lois Chiles Foundation; ILEX Foundation; L’Alliance Française de Houston; and The Foundation for Independent Media Arts.