A 1997 movie
A thoughtful science-fiction film that springs from the infamous DEFA studio, EOLOMEA was filmed just a few years after Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY captured cinemagoers imaginations. The title refers to a message received from space by … see full wiki
When you sort through dusty areas to find books and movies—or music though I am less successful there—you can find some strange corners. Lately, I’ve found that the stuff stored in some of those corners is there for a reason; though we would all be better suited if the corner had yellow warning tape in front of it: This corner reserved for very sucky things. But from time to time, you run into something described like this: Bureaucracy butts heads with space exploration in this vintage sci-fi adventure by East Germany's legendary DEFA studios.” Hummm. It isn’t every day you find a “legend” you’d never heard and the legend made more mysterious by containing the words “East Germany.”
Eolomea starts with Central Command getting another alert that a supply ship failed to make contact with any of the moon bases or Central Command. Professor Maria Scholl leads a meeting of a space council where she explains what has happened. Seven supply or research ships have essentially disappeared. A discussion quickly draws a battle line. Professor Oli Tal confronts Prof Scholl when she states that she cannot offer any theories, only the suggestion that all flights be halted until more information can be collected. Prof Tal is more cavalier with regards to the human risk. Just before the council votes, another ship goes missing, bringing the human toll to about 150. Given this, the council votes to support Prof Scholl.
Maria discovers that Oli’s daughter is among the missing from the most recent disappearance. He says he knew, which is odd since the information had been classified. This scene defines the mystery as two-headed. Not only was there the general mystery about the disappearances but there is also the question about what Prof Tal knows and how he knows it. She confronts him directly using a game of hot-warm-cold to try to uncover at least a couple of pieces of the puzzle.
A parallel plot involves a complicated relationship Maria has with a semi-renegade astronaut, Daniel. He tries to resign from the space service but the resignation isn’t accepted. Then Maria orders him back into space but before he goes, they have a brief affair. She sends him so far from the main action that the hope of seeing him is remote. Both the affair and his appointment to the hinterlands are tacked on and distracting.
Given that the film is a mystery, any other specific information would likely spoil the plot.
The acting and visuals are better than I expected given that the film came from East Germany; being as repressive as it was the idea that I would seeing anything of worth from East Germany at that time (1972) seemed unlikely at best. Cox Habberma (Prof Scholl) and Rolf Hoppe (Prof Tal) are excellent. Their characters are fully fleshed out and believable and each actor handles his/her role without issue. Ivan Andonov plays Daniel and seems to be on par with the other principles, However, his lines were changed entirely and relooped so that his mouth isn’t even close further evidence that the subplots are truly tacked on and not just metaphorically.
The special effects are impressive. Yes the vehicles are obviously models, but it is also obvious that care was taken to make the movement as smooth and realistic as possible. But what sticks out is an abstraction that seems to mimic the idea of space travel. Director Herrmann Zschoche used a form of dropping ink of different color and consistency into water. These bits are in extreme close-up. These ink scenes start to overlap each other as the movie moves to its end creating a sense of chaos.
Eolomea’s story is unfortunately inconsistent. The mystery itself is strong enough to sustain the film, but it isn’t given the full measure to do it.
Daniel is integral to the main plot but he is locked in two subplots that deflect from the main story. The first is the romantic silliness I mentioned earlier. It takes up about twenty percent of the running time, time better spent on just about any other aspect of the film. The second subplot involves where he is stationed. What he does on the distant asteroid is left entirely vague. It seemed to me that his job is to sing and to keep Ernest Hemingway company (the actor Wolfgang Greese looks so much like Hemingway in his 50s it was truly eerie).
It seems that I have listed significant enough reasons not to bother with this film. While that is as true as not, I actually liked the movie. Yea it was interesting to see and East German film especially given that it is not overtly political or anti-capitalism, but the movie is not a high-brow sociological musing on the nature of a paranoid state. Eolomea truly has the feel of a good independent movie.
I would likely rate as 4 stars, but the stated problems oblige to rate as 3; however, I still recommend the film.
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A 1997 movie
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