Sunday, May 27, 2012

REVIEW: In the Dust of the Stars

In the Dust of the Stars
Director: Gottfried Kolditz
Year 1976
In the Dust of the Stars is a deliciously strange East Germany science fiction production that takes an interesting plot and cranks the weird to the max. Seemingly forged after someone’s drug induced trip, the filmmakers create a cast of characters that are both wildly entertaining and intriguingly obscure. If it’s trippy sci-fi that you seek, then In the Dust of the Stars is right up your alley.
The film follows the crew of the Spaceship Cyrno as it arrives on the planet TEM 4 after responding to a distress call that they received six years earlier. Upon arriving, they come to find that the people of TEM 4 deny the existence of the distress call and seem oblivious to any danger to their society, as they party down in some of the most eclectic and groovy sets known to the science fiction world, aside from Barbarella of course. Disappointed over having traveled six years only to be laughed at and told it was all for nothing, the majority of the crew decide to head back home, but there is one man named Suko who isn’t so convinced that the rulers of TEM 4 are being truthful about the distress call. Suko boldly defies the locals’ orders and flies a reconnaissance shuttle over the planet in order to find the source of the mysterious beacon. To his surprise, he stumbles upon a conspiracy that not even he could have fathomed. This science fiction film is a strange little gem that has a whole hell of a lot of entertainment value. That is if you are open to weird and wild cinematic civilizations.

Alfred Struwe plays the role of Suko, the suspicious cosmonaut who snoops into the business of the TEM 4 people and gets more than he bargains for. Struwe does a great job as the catalyst of this film, as he pushes the story forward by delving into the mystery of the cover-up and the inevitable reveal of what is really going on behind this strange new world. I enjoyed his restrained style of acting and felt that he gave an admirable performance that was both subtle and effective. Alongside him is Jana Brejchova who plays the role of Akala, the leader of the crew. Jana is simply amazing as the captain and she gives such an expressive nature to Akala that you can’t help but sympathize with her plight on finding out that they traveled all of that way for nothing. She distresses over the futility of the mission, and is often in disarray over the meaningless of it all, but once revealed the truth she becomes an outstanding hero of the film. I really enjoyed her portrayal of the complex character of Akala and I enjoyed the complicated relationship that Suko and her shared throughout the film. It also didn’t hurt that she looked strangely beautiful in this film as well.
Onto the baddies side of the fence we have Milan Beli playing the role of Ronk, the no nonsense son of a bitch who does everything he can to make the crew of the Cyrno’s life a living hell. I really got a kick out of Milan’s approach towards Ronk. He’s sadistic in every way possible and he’s always looking for a way to screw with the minds of the crew before he disposes with them. He even gets a chance to showcase his master torture skills when he captures Suko while he’s snooping around. He does this by introducing him to a trippy mind meld device that looks like a giant pair of deadly earmuffs from which a painful shock is blasted into the ears of the poor sole stuck between them. The boss of this bat shit crazy organization is lead by a man called the Chief, played by the ambiguous Ekkehard Schall. This dude was born for this role, because I don’t think you could find a more effeminate and peculiar man even if you tried. The Chief is not sadistic like Ronk, but he is extremely flamboyant and theatrical in his performance. With his ever changing hair color, to his obsession with stroking his oversized anaconda (say what?!), the Chief is definitely a memorable character. I have to hand it to Ekkehard, because there really isn’t anything like the Chief out there in sci-fi land so the originality of his performance shines through and through every time.

To keep up with this wild cast of characters, the film provides some amazing locations and sets that highlight the brash and vivid nature of the movie. Colors abound with a kaleidoscope blast which mimics the overabundance of style that these flamboyant people of TEM 4 have. There is also a heavy use of obscure sets, most notably displayed in Chief’s mirrored lair which sets the audiences mind into dizzying fits whenever we are presented with it. The barren desert landscape that is represented as the desolate surface world of TEM 4 is wonderfully shot, making you feel like you actually are visiting a distant planet filled with unusual sights and equally unusual inhabitants.
That’s one of the most accomplished aspects of the film, because the culture of the people of TEM 4 is just out of this world. From lavish dances, to otherworldly foods, to obscure customs, all the way to their strange sense of humor, the inhabitants of this world are a little bonkers. This all sets up the underlying conspiracy of this movie which highlights the theme that ‘looks can be deceiving’, so in the end all the wackiness and showmanship of these extravagant people actually makes sense by the end of the film. At first I was a little taken back by the strangeness of it all, but as the film progressed I came to dig the overtly wacky angles of the piece and felt that it perfectly mirrored the feelings that the astronauts were having when introduced to this strange and unfamiliar group of beings. In the Dust of the Stars is a pretty damn bizarre film and I loved it!

In the Dust of the Stars really is an obscure wonder of a flick as it opens up with a rather traditional premise of a space crew responding to a distress call, only to then spin the narrative wildly out of control once we are introduced to the strange denizens of the planet. The unfamiliarity of the presentation works wonders alongside the already rare nature of an East Germany science fiction production. The combination of the two is a match made in heaven, forming into a cinematic world that surprisingly makes sense.
The entire cast does a spectacular job with the unusual style of the film with Jana Brejchova, Alfred Struwe, Ekkehard Schall, and Milan Beli giving some exceptionally memorable performances. There is also a great deal of attractive females in this film, if that just so happens to be your bag. All in all, the production has a stellar style to it that really doesn’t skimp on the wild nature of this new world and the unusual look of everything is top notch and absolutely decadent. I wasn’t expecting to see such an overtly weird film when first sitting down to view In the Dust of the Stars, but I’m highly satisfied by its ambitious nature and unorthodox approach to a tried and true storyline. If you’re looking for something that’s kind of out there and genuinely strange, then give this film a go. It’s definitely……

What the hell is that thing?

These knuckleheads all wore the same outfit to the party. How embarrassing!

Why so serious guys? Let's PARTY!

Damn you Ronk and your sly smile!

I'm just going to stand here and stare at your hotness.

Dance for us flyboy. DANCE!

Check out my super group... The Lame5.

My goodness, did you see what he was wearing? Blue hair with a blue sweater. How kitsch.

Akala isn't impressed by the many dance numbers the film has. What a grump.

Thob thinks this movie is A OK.

I'm not letting you out of there until you think about what you did.

Once you're done sulking, you can come out of your cage.

Looks like someone's not impressed with the leather vest.

This guy is a weirdo!

Oh Chief.... I can't stay mad at you.

The Chief starts a black metal band. Hail Satan!

Ronk doing the YMCA dance..... FABULOUS!

What a lonely way to end a movie.

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