Eolomea (East Germany, 1972) * *
D: Herrmann Zschoche
I don't know if I love and adore this film or not.
Any attempt at objectivity--never mind that criticism isn't objective--would reveal this East German science fiction film from the early 70's to be plodding, with a constipated story that continually proves to be less than it seems to be, and some of the most ridiculous period trappings you can imagine, including psychedelic light-show visuals that emulate 2001: A Space Odyssey (but unlike Kubrick's film, are unconvincing and fail to be fully integrated into the environment of the film), a nutty lounge soundtrack that never matches the action, and perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious slow-motion shot of two lovers running toward each other with open arms across a long beach. (You've seen that shot parodied a thousand times, but here it is, delivered straightfaced, and it couldn't be any funnier.)
On the other hand, most of those criticisms endear me to the film. Greatly. Only the plot I can't forgive.
The plot: some spaceships are reported missing from a space station deep in the cosmos, and on Earth a young female scientist investigates the disappearance by questioning a smug, mysterious professor who knows something about a project called "Eolomea." Eolomea, it turns out, is the nickname for a deep-space object that may be a new, unexplored world, or a supernova, or who knows what (apparently the scientists aren't that good). The ships have actually been dispatched to find Eolomea and discover what exactly it is, although it's so distant that they may never return. Just before things get too interesting, the scientist and her team, arriving at the space station, find that the ships haven't left for Eolomea yet, but are just now about to leave. (That's right--nothing has actually happened in the film so far. Sorry to get you interested.) And it takes forever to get to this point in the film, because we've also been following, in flashback, the history of one of the two men manning the space station, a captain who fell in love with the female scientist on the Galapagos islands, and now keeps a pet turtle in his cabin to remind him of those halcyon days. A nice touch, a propos of nothing. As the film ends, this fellow decides to join the team journeying to Eolomea, leaving his life behind for good.
There is some nice material in here about missing the shining rays of the sun and the cool waters of the ocean, to leave it all for what the black vacuum of space. But space itself looks pretty exotic, what with all the psychedelic oil-in-water lightshows (you expect the Grateful Dead to begin performing whenever these cut in). I actually dig this Barbarella stuff. I even dig the cheesy lounge score. I even kind of dig the aforementioned hilarious slow-motion love scene.
It's a science fiction movie of the 70's, and it is exactly the kind of science fiction movie, pre-Star Wars, that you always think you know about, but have never actually seen. All the cliches are here. It's trippy. It's talky. There's a big chunky robot that serves drinks. There's even an astronaut who gets infected by some kind of "shadow" spore, but that's never really explained, nor does it have much to do with the plot.
The plot is the problem. There just isn't one. It's an idea: this film will be about exploring the great unknown, like a cosmic Lewis & Clark. But nothing actually happens, and all the talking leads nowhere.
But, man, it's a German science fiction movie from the 70's, with fairly decent special effects and set design that recalls French SF graphic novels by Moebius and other Metal Hurlant artists of the 70's and 80's. If you even know what that last sentence meant, you should probably see this film. Otherwise, it's just another relic of a very, very strange time in cinema that will never come around again.