Directed by Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter | 2020 | 91 minutes | Not Rated | Austria and Germany | German with English Subtitles
Visually and conceptually sophistocated, Space Dogs traces the story of Laika, the first dog in space. Remarkable archival footage recounts the story of his selection, and directors Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter powerfully document the lives of his descendants, offering insight not only into the past and space travel, but also life today on earth.
Laika, a stray dog picked up by the Soviet space program on the streets of Moscow, became the first living being to orbit the earth when she was launched into space on Sputnik 2. Although Laika would not survive the journey, directors Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter trace the persistence of her memory and legacy into the present day. As the capsule containing Laika reentered Earth’s orbit and began to burn up, the narrator announces “What had been a Moscow street dog had become a ghost.”
Archival footage of the Soviet space program is interwoven throughout the film, reveling in the bizarre tests and procedures the canines were subjected to in preparation for space travel. The hum of space-age machinery blends seamlessly with the hypnotic drone of the soundtrack, which in turn echoes the alien sounds of the modern city. With stunning cinematography and meditative pacing that recalls the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, Space Dogs is a singular work that decenters humans in order to uncover a forgotten history.
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“Brutal but also deeply sensitive; a complex work that got under my skin.” — Film Comment
“No one leaves this movie unchanged.” — Publico
“Radical and rigorous; one of the documentaries of the year.” — Film Idea