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Taming of the Fire

Original title
Ukroshcheniye ognya (Taming of the Fire)
Soviet Union  (USSR) Soviet Union (USSR)
Daniil Khrabrovitsky
, ,
Drama | Biography. Historical. Space Adventure
Synopsis / Plot
The Space Race... A noble competition between the United States and the Soviet Union where no money, equipment or personnel was spared to reach the insane goals. The competition started out a bit one sided when the Soviets launched the Sputnik-1 in 1957, then promptly sent up Laika the Dog, the first life form into space. The first leg practically ended when Yuri Gagarin was launched into orbit on 12 April 1961, marking the first occasion when a man survived outer space. The final outcome of the race changed drastically per the promise of President Kennedy: the Americans put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade (they did in 1969). 'The Taming of the Fire' was the Soviets' way of celebrating "the defeat", reminding their own people about the great achievements they had already made in the past. Think of it as the Socialist version of 'The Right Stuff' (1983), characterized by all the oddball features that made film making in the Eastern Bloc so thrilling. The final result is a mixture of fictionalized biography, a good deal of tech talk, stock footage of previous rocket launches as well as a thin narrative that's meant to inspire the working class.

The story concerns the space-obsessed Andrei Bashkirtsev (Kirill Lavrov), who always dreamed about touching the stars. In the first episode of the two-part tale, Bashkirtsev fights the Nazis and although he gets captured, this doesn't bring him from designing space rockets in prison - just like a true hero of the Soviet Union. Once he gets out, the scientist does the most logical thing and requests to be in the front-line again. The second episode has a bit more space research as Bashkirtsev designs the rocket that takes the Sputnik into orbit. His next major achievement in Baykonur involves the launching of Yuri Gagarin, who is soon followed by other fine Soviet cosmonauts. Unfortunately Bashkirtsev is a bit too passionate about space and his constant battle with politicians lead to a heart attack - but fear not, his work will be continued by other fine young men (casually introduced in the last few minutes). If 'The Taming of Fire' sounds like an odd movie, it has every right to be. Designed as an ambitious show-off project, the film was eventually ruined by the same political atmosphere that claimed the life of the main protagonist Andrei Bashkirtsev.
1972: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival: Best Film
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