In Alice Winocour’s film “Proxima”, a mother wants to fly into space – and has to assert herself in a male domain. Nevertheless, it is very poetic here.
In the space city of Baikonur, the carpets have been faded since the days of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Soyuz rockets are still launched there, which reliably transport people into space. These have to be trained for a long time, the drill is militarily hard and tailored to men’s bodies. Nevertheless, Sarah (Eva Green) dreamed of flying into space as an astronaut even as a little girl. With willpower, ambition and talent, she has made her way. And was finally chosen for an international Mars mission.
Until then, it is only a few weeks at the beginning of Alice Winocour’s film “Proxima – The Astronaut”. For the rocket launch, Sarah travels from Cologne via the Star City near Moscow to the Kazakh steppe. For her, the stages up to her detachment from Earth are also stages of separation from her daughter, Stella, with whom she has a symbiotic relationship; the fact that she has to entrust the child to the care of her ex-partner for the duration of her mission does not please her much. Thomas (Lars Eidinger) is an astrophysicist and, as a theorist and man in the background, takes a counter-position to Sarah: He has spent little time with Stella and has little experience with education.
Despite double burden in the cosmos
“Proxima”, shot at original locations and under real training conditions, gives a convincing, almost documentary-like insight into the preparation of a space mission. He also describes the difficulty of asserting herself as a woman in the male domain of space travel. Although Sarah meets all requirements, her possible replacement is always present, who is waiting for her to drop out – and who is sent to a training session in her place for discipline purposes when she arrives too late for practice after a phone call with Stella.
Director Winocour skilfully combines the farewell to the earth with more general themes, without letting the parable dominate. Stylistically, this is more reminiscent of the dreamlike film language of Andrei Tarkovsky (“Solaris”) than of Hollywood space epics. As with the Russian film visionary, the science fiction elements here serve as a means of reflection on the nature of man: the infinity of the cosmos becomes a projection screen for the fragility of emotional bonds, whose life-sustaining core is surrounded by galaxies of loneliness. When Sarah leaves Earth, Stella also detaches herself from her mothership.
With Matt Dillon and Sandra Hüller, the drama, which is also top-class beyond the main characters, repeatedly comes up with nuanced twists; the child actress Zélie Boulant Lemesle, cast from hundreds of applicants, is not behind the international stars in the role of Stella. Above all, however, the camera and direction impress with obvious but magnificent images that symbolize external and internal struggles.
Similar to Claire Denis’ recent space experimental arrangements in “High Life” (2018), “Proxima” collages people and landscapes, mythological and everyday things into an open whole that enables connections in many directions. And not least thanks to impressive shots of the rocket launch or a bus ride between wild horses, it digs deep and firmly into the minds of the viewers.
(“Die Presse”, print edition, 29.07.2021)