80 minutes

A proper curio from the other side of the Iron Curtain, Akvanavty isn't interesting so much for its technical aspects as for its singularly utopian, humanist approach to science-fiction, highly typical of classical Russian genre writing – and, indeed, this was based on a novel from sci-fi writer Sergei Pavlov, though director and co-scripter Igor Voznesensky changed it so radically that mr. Pavlov removed himself from the production. In the near-future where Akvanavty takes place, it is possible for men to be trained and modified to swim underwater without the need to breathe air for long periods of time, the resulting aquanauts work under a world organisation and scientists experiment with downloading their souvenirs into “memory matrixes”.
     What the film does with this, however, barely rises above the level of 1970s American TV or cut-rate Euro rip-offs, with rushed plotting and over-expository dialogue demanding narrative leaps the script is unable to support. The convoluted plot has Russian aquanaut Igor Sobolev (Herman Polokov) falling in love with scientist Lotta Karem (Irina Azer), only for her name to reappear regularly during his investigation of a series of strange happenings in an underwater power station. Some of the underwater footage is pretty good, and there is a certain kitsch pleasure to be had from the very seventies low-budget sets and cheesy trick effects. But there isn't really much to be recommended here for the casual viewer; only for completists or students of Russian filmmaking.
     The print screened, on a commercial DVD from German editor Icestorm's collection of Russian-made sci-fi, is the German-dubbed version produced for release in East Germany by state studio DEFA in 1981.

Starring Herman Poloskov, Alexander Iakovlev, Irina Azer, Vaclav Dvorzhetsky, Paul Butkevich, Elena Valaeva, Nikolai Kryukov, Yuri Sarantsev, Artyom Karapetyan, Vladimir Nikitin.
     Directed by Igor Voznesensky; screenplay by Sergei Pavlov with mr. Voznesensky, based on the novel by mr. Pavlov, Akvanavty; music by Eugen Krylatov; directors of photography (colour, widescreen), Alexander Filatov, Georgi Selenin; underwater director of photography, Vladimir Karpitzhev; production designer, Felix Rostotsky; film editor, G. Dmitrieva; visual effects, V. Losovsky, V. Glaskov.
     A Maxim Gorki Film Studio Third Artistic Workshop film. 
     Screened: DVD, Lisbon, June 7th 2011. 


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