Film (1961; vt The Fabulous Baron Munchausen, Baron Munchausen). Filmové Studio Gottwaldov. Directed by Karel Zeman. Rudolf Jelinek, Jana Brejchová, Karel Höger. Written by Jirí Brdecka, Josef Kainar, and Karel Zeman, based on the book by Rudolph Erich Raspe and Gottfried August Bürger. Starring Milos Kopecký. 83 minutes. Colour.
In a film that combines live action footage and animation, we first see a series of images showing the history of flight – butterflies, birds, a man gliding with large wings, an early aircraft, a modern jet, and finally a Spaceship. After the spaceship lands on the Moon, a spacesuited astronaut named Tony (Jelinek) walks across the barren lunar terrain and is surprised to see footsteps, a glove lying on the ground, and an old-fashioned Victrola that plays a record. He then finds a bullet-shaped capsule with a plaque honouring Jules Verne's De la Terre à la Lune (1865; trans From the Earth to the Moon 1867), and he is greeted by Verne's travellers Barbicane, Nicholl, and Ardan as well as Cyrano de Bergerac (Höger) and finally Baron Munchausen (Kopecký), all normally dressed and somehow unaffected by the lunar vacuum. Mistaking him for a man from the Moon, the Baron offers to fly Tony back to Earth in a ship borne by flying horses, and Tony takes off with him, throwing away his spacesuit. Arriving in Earth's past by unexplained means, the Baron and Tony rescue the beautiful Princess Bianca (Brejchová) from a sultan, and as she and Tony fall in love, the trio have a series of familiar Baron Munchausen adventures, which include defeating the sultan's armada, being swallowed by a whale, and helping a besieged general win a battle. Finally, Tony recalls a story he told Bianca and, following its example, he places a lot of gunpowder in a well; when the Baron ignites it, the explosion sends Tony and Bianca hurtling into space, the suits of armor they were wearing become spacesuits, and they land on the Moon, whereupon Cyrano tells them, "You have arrived at just the right moment." While the Moon once "belonged to us, the poets, the dreamers, the visionaries, and the fantastic adventurers", he continues, he now salutes "those audacious ones who are already on the way" to other worlds.
For most of its length, this film is merely one of many adaptations of Raspe's extravagant stories, but the added frame story of a contemporary astronaut reaching the Moon does serve to interestingly connect old, fanciful tales of Space Flight to today's ventures into space, and the film's conclusion suggests that the earlier writers effectively laid the groundwork for humanity's later achievements in space. This further provides the film with an elegiac note, as Munchausen's stories, having served their purpose, can now be regarded as obsolete, outdated visions, to be supplanted by more realistic depictions of outer space and other worlds. [GW]
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