June 19, 2021

Laika and other cosmic dogs | Babelia

Trailer for the documentary ‘Space Dogs’ (2019), by Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter.

Everyone knows the expression Mondo Cane although few will remember the film, titled like this, in Spanish, Dog world (1962), by the Italians Cavara, Jacopetti and Prosperi. A false documentary (included creative scenes) about the grotesque rituals and customs that occur in the four corners of the planet, especially in relation to animals: bullfighting martyrdoms (Portugal, Spain), dogs skinned alive for their meat (Taiwan) and others ruthless killings, such as that of Malaysian sharks raiputh, which throw poisonous sea urchins into their throats. There are sad scenes of kennels to burst – the one that opens the film puts a border collie on “death row” – contrasting with that of a dog funeral at a Pasadena pet cemetery. Dogs end up looking like their masters, and their worlds too.

In those years, the Soviets experimented with dogs for their space missions, but our scandalous Italian friends could not find out about that. They stuffed them into diving suits after subjecting them to cuts in the abdomen to introduce sensors, digestive tubes and artificial anuses. They ended their days in the interstellar abyss – in very few cases were they recovered – but while they survived they provided with inhuman loyalty the necessary information to the scientists of the Russian Space Race. Of all the astronaut animals — chimpanzees were America’s favorite, but there were also turtles and guinea pigs — the most popular was a three-year-old mixed-breed female named Laika (barking, in Russian), which became the first creature to orbit Earth aboard Sputnik 2 (1957). German filmmaker and writer Alexander Kluge He thus details the agony of the animal – which died in a few hours from a thermal collapse – while wondering if humanity can continue to think of a third great cosmological revolution when it is not even capable of recovering a simple animal from Siberia: “ The engineers at the Star City control center heard (no one dared cut off the acoustic communication) the bitch’s efforts to breathe. Laika’s life force further prolonged the crisis. The animal did not say goodbye to life in Earth orbit without offering resistance “(The hole left by the devil, Anagrama, 2007).

Kluge’s suspicion now returns as a must-have question in documentary form. Space Dogs, directed by Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter, appearing on Friday at the DOCS Barcelona International Festival from the Filmin platform, tells exactly what happened to the first astronaut animal while uncovering the world of Soviet “space dogs” that were collected from the streets for the sole purpose of being used for experiments. Filmed from the perspective of a dog, the film takes place in the hollow suburbs of Moscow, an arcadia compared to the truculence of the subgenre. mondo, but still, the story strikes the soul.

Laika and other cosmic dogs

As if they had come to life from improbable distances, the space dogs de Kremser and Peter awaken us from the dream of great events by the effective mix of documentary images, hidden for decades in the Russian archives, and the current ones of the puppies and their puppies that roam the open fields where in former times they must have got lost Laika, between the vague sound of ponds and garbage and the lurking of stupid human existence echoing at the doors of a karaoke.

Narrated by the cosmic voice of Russian actor Aleksei Serebryakov (Leviathan), Space dogs It is sinister as fairy tales are, to the point of leaving in a simple anecdote the Haneckian horror scene starring a cute kitty and a starving dog. Now that deer, wild boar and dolphins dare to look out onto our streets and beaches, cinema, like life, gives men and women strange hopes.

Space Dogs. Direction: Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter. 2019. Austria. Genre: Documentary. Duration: 91 minutes. Available on Filmin from Friday, May 22.


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