Scen.: Andrei Ujică. F.: Vadim Jusov. M.: Ralf Henninger, Heidi Leihbecher, Svetlana Ivanova. Int.: Sergej Krikalëv, Anatolij Arcebarskij, Aleksandr Volkov. Prod.: Elke Peters per Bremer Institut Film/Fernsehen, WDR, La Sept/Arte, RTBF, St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio, Harun Farocki Filmproduktion, Loy Arnold Filmproduktion. DCP. D.: 96’. Col.
Yet, the extraterrestrial shots and scenes have the effect of somehow dwarfing and distancing these historic events, however momentous. Galaxies, like grains of sand, spread across the sky, and even the epochal sights of the collapse of the Soviet state shrivel in comparison.
Michael Wilmington, “Chicago Tribune”, 7 March 1997
In the autumn of 1993, when I travelled to Moscow to start working on Out of the Present, I was thinking of making a film about the last Soviet cosmonaut, Sergej Krikalëv, who had been on a mission on the Mir Space Station between 1991 and 1992. During that period, the August Coup in Moscow had taken place, bringing about the collapse of the USSR. Therefore, Krikalëv had taken off from the USSR, but landed ten months later in Russia.
This paradigm shift from a Homeric vision of History – the Gods of Olympus looking down upon us mortals on Earth – to the vision of homo technologicus – one man observing, from his astral monument, the end of an era that had begun with the October Revolution – was fascinating to me. I wanted to tell the story of Krikalëv’s space mission using only original images; therefore, those filmed during the actual mission itself.
Furthermore, I also wanted to include two sequences shot in space that would bookend the story: a prologue and an epilogue, the shooting of which was to be coordinated by Vadim Jusov, in homage to his work on Solaris. In this way, Jusov would find himself making cinema history as the person in charge of the first purely cinematographic images shot in outer space. In October of 1994, we managed to send a 35mm camera up to the Mir Space Station to shoot with.
Gaining access to the entire visual documentation of Krikalëv’s mission took an enormous amount of effort. Therefore, I shut myself inside my apartment with all the video cassettes and one monitor, and I underwent an incredible experience: I had the impression that I was actually on the space flight. Out of the Present depicts the journey into space from a first-person perspective, gifting a similarly personal experience to each viewer. […] I decided to tell the story from the point of view of one of the cosmonauts, without any analytical comment. I also used music in such a way that it would create a dialogue with that of 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. These are elements typical of fiction. In the end, Out of the Present tells a true story through documentary images, but also draws freely from the emotional arsenal of fiction.
(Andrei Ujică in conversation with Paul Virilio from Fondation Cartier, 7 April 1999)