“Spaceman”: Science Fiction and Existentialism in a Truly Alien Film

The painful journey of a man through his own inner universe, narrated in an unbalanced and imperfect work but with captivating strangeness and dense symbolic meanings.

“Spaceman,” the latest Netflix Original film premiered at the 74th Berlinale that just concluded, stands as an example of existential science fiction, aimed at exploring a universe called man. The work lends itself to a multitude of readings, especially philosophical and psychoanalytical, and depending on the viewer, will be perceived either as an amniotic cradle in which one often finds oneself even after viewing or as a kind, slow, and trashy mess.

Directed by Johan Renck, known for the “Chernobyl” series, the film is inspired by the sci-fi novel “Spaceman of Bohemia” by Czech author Jaroslav Kalfař.

Adam Sandler stars in this exploration of the emotional dynamics of a human being, an actor who became famous for his lighter roles but has since also turned to dramatic ones.

Sandler plays Jakub Procházka, a Czechoslovak astronaut who has been navigating space for 189 days, headed towards a mysterious cloud on the outskirts of Jupiter. The solo mission allows him to frequently communicate with his wife Lenka (Carey Mulligan). The day she sends a message from Earth intending to leave her husband, the communication is censored by those overseeing the mission (Isabella Rossellini). Plagued by insomnia and restlessness and unable to speak with his loved one, Jakub is at the mercy of progressive psychophysical breakdown. That is until a strange creature appears, a giant spider that becomes a sort of friend, therapist, and confidant. Through dialogue with it, Jakub reviews memories, mistakes, and broken promises; realizing he had created a sidereal distance between himself and others long before leaving. Coming to terms with himself and his past actions will be the key to understanding that will give meaning to his life.

“Spaceman” is about the self-introspection of an individual suspended in nothingness and emotional crisis, a condition familiar to many across our latitudes and longitudes, (“disoriented, scared, in the darkness holding on,” as the film says).

What may cause resistance is that the Virgil of this journey takes the form of an arachnoid puppet that seems to have stepped out of a comedy skit but speaks zen-like about very important topics. Not everyone will be able to be captivated by a film based on such alienating and unique elements.

With dreamlike flashbacks and poetic surrealism, emblematic questions and ancient wisdom, “Spaceman” tickles the viewer’s emotional intelligence: first, it poses a somber reflection on the physical and emotional isolation of a person, then it tells of the difficulties of love and life, and finally reveals the necessity of confrontation with the other to make sense of everything.

The story not only leads to the thresholds of creation but also to those of the end of life, suggesting that in both cases, the gaze is directed towards home.

Deliberately derivative of many superior films like “Arrival” and “Interstellar,” “Spaceman” is still full of details not to be taken for granted and with symbolic function.

The intergalactic psychologist at the heart of the film, at once Socratic and Kafkaesque, by posing the right questions and enlightened conclusions, reveals some fundamental truths. Give it and yourself a chance; either way, you’ll have a cure for arachnophobia.