In August 1991, tanks advanced on the White House in Moscow, the government seat of the Russian Soviet Republic. Although the coup failed, the Soviet Union rapidly dissolved in the following months. Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev wasn’t there when it happened: in May 1991, he had left for the Mir space station from the Soviet Union. When he returned 10 months later, he landed in Russia.
For his film about the last Soviet cosmonaut, filmmaker Andrei Ujica drew from video material filmed during the mission, to which he added a fictional commentary. He also sent a 35mm camera to the Russian space station. He asked director of photography Vadim Yusov—as a tribute to his camerawork in Tarkovski’s Solaris—to prepare the filming process and coordinate it from mission control on Earth, thus creating the first purely cinematic images shot in space. These long takes of Mir’s space orbit contrast with short, chaotic takes of the rapid changes on Earth, providing the background to Krikalev’s sober comment: “For a cosmonaut, the speed with which day and night and the seasons fly by is more impressive.”