CONTENT WARNING- THIS FILM MAY BE TRAUMATIC FOR SOME VIEWERS
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 re-entered Earth’s orbit and began to burn up, the narrator announces “What had been a Moscow street dog had become a ghost.”
The ghost Laika lives on in the present-day strays of SPACE DOGS. Photographed at ground level with wandering, hypnotic camera movements, the strays are seen navigating the urban environs of modern Moscow. In hewing closely to the dog’s point of view, the city is rendered as a strange, alien environment. Pulsating music from buildings and unidentified passerby take on an unfamiliar quality as the dogs explore this strange new world.
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 de-centers humans in order to uncover a forgotten history.
“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
“Like Disney directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.” —CineVue
“Undoubtedly the most exciting film at Locarno: a philosophical film that does what cinema has to do: show unseen images.” —Deutchland Funk
“Successfully subverts the anthropocentric gaze to Illustrate the violent way humans inhabit space.” —Little White Lies
“A total work of art, foreshadowing a near future in which man is no longer the center of the world.” —Kino Zeit
“Ingenious; Kremser and Peter connect a roughly hewn space traveling animal history with modern stray subjects.” —IonCinema
“The scariest film of the year.” —CineEuropa