Artavazd Peleshian (b. 1938)
Our Century (1983)
What followed remains Peleshian's longest film to date, the 50-minute feature Our Century (Mer Dare, 1983). Our Century concerns itself with some cosmonauts (and astronauts) preparing themselves for a space flight. Peleshian constructs the film around this event, quite predictably, exploring his themes through a complex editing system coupled with an equally complex soundtrack. Initially, Peleshian crosscuts between the footage of the activities at a space station, minutes before the launch of a shuttle, and a celebratory procession where the space-heroes are cheered and applauded by the mass. Peleshian frequently presents clips that show the immense stress that the cosmonauts are put under, during the test phase and in space, It is a period of sheer loneliness, physical and mental fatigue and, yet, of excitement and ambitiousness. He then goes on to depict man's obsession with flight and, in general, his desire to conquer the various elements of nature, where he shows a number of bizarre experiments in aviation, most of which end unsuccessfully. As ever, individual turmoil gives way to and unifies with national tragedies to the point beyond which there is no difference between a nuclear explosion, a rocket launch and the human heartbeat. Our Century arguably presents Peleshian at the top of his game, converting both the form and content of the film into a highly personal mode of expression. In no other Peleshian film has the ecstasy over human achievement mingled with the agony of existence in such an intricate fashion. The point is not the establishment of a simple irony, but of an exploration of what makes humanity go on, against all odds.
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