Der Schweigende Stern

In light of the necessary changes to the commenting protocol on this site (due, ironically, to the increased popularity of the blog, and thus its attraction of attention-seeking trolls and spammers), this blog has now been re-christened Deonandia, given its new policies and feel. These changes include comment moderation, increased advertising, and now the removal of the guest blogger profiles on the right.

(This does not mean that guest bloggers not welcome. By all means, if you have a serious topic you’d like to share with members of this community, feel free to approach me. The profiles were just taking up valuable advertising space!)

More aesthetic changes are forthcoming. But the content will remain the same: porn, leftist chest thumping, self-glorification, and more porn.

It’s 2:AM Saturday morning and I, my friends, have slept. Yes, glorious, harmonious and all embracing slumber was finally mine for several uninterrupted hours. Sweet, sweet, soma. The little death that visits most nightly, yet is denied to we of the hectic schedules, was mine once more; and baby it was gooood. In celebration, I just allowed myself 90 minutes of poitnless gratification: the viewing of a DVD I bought at Staples for $1 a year ago. The movie is called First Spaceship On Venus or Der Schweigende Stern (“The Evening Star”) in the original German.

It was made in 1959 by a joint East German/Polish production team and is based on an obscure story by Polish sci-fi master, Stanislaw Lem (he of Solaris fame). I expected a standard, cheesy sci-fi adventure of that era. Instead, I got a smart, creepy, well-acted and well-written little tale of classic high-brow science fiction. If you can get over the poor special effects and outdatedness (eg, by 1985 the world is seemingly united under a world government), then I highly recommend this rare little film. The aesthetic is classical East German, with sleek blacklines and shiny chrome. Say what you like about the East Germans, but they had good fashion sense.

More interesting is the political sensibility of Communist filmmaking. Unheard of in the West of that era, this SF “epic” featured an international multi-racial cast that went beyond mere tokenism. Indian, Chinese, Japanese and African scientists team up with German and Polish cosmonauts to explore the fallen civilization of Venus. The science is unbelievably tight, there is no pointless romance, and –most importantly– there is a pacifist anti-nuclear theme throughout the entire film. It represents the best of the Communist ideal: racial and gender egalitarianism, and perfect peace and prosperity. Compare it to the equivalent American films of the same period, with gun-toting white space cowboys getting into fist-fights with alien soldiers while snogging green-skinned alien babes.

There’s an important scene in the movie when the explorers discover that the Venusians had been plotting to irradiate and invade the Earth. There is some debate over whether this information should be broadcast to the people of the Earth, for fear of instigating planetary panic. But the leader of the expedition, egged on by the Chinese linguist, declares, “There will be no panic. We narrowly avoided nuclear catastrophe by virtue of knowledge, not of secrecy. And it is knowledge that will save us this time, too.”

Of course, the Communist governments who allowed this picture were no great champions of public knowledge or of anti-secrecy. But the sentiment is important, and reminds us that the philosophy of Marx was noble. It was the application of that philosophy, by men of ill will, that faltered.