Movie Review: Mars.

A low budget Czech comedy was shot at an actual Mars simulator in the US

Mars. (Trash on Mars)
Directed by Benjamin Tuček
With Petra Nesvačilová, Tereza Nvotová, Halka Třešňáková, Jiří Havelka, Tomáš Jeřábek, Petr Prokop, Ondřej Doule

The low budget Czech absurd comedy Mars., also called Trash on Mars, deglamorizes space travel. The film takes place in 2118, and space exploration has become a fad of the past. Six people visit a long abandoned station on Mars, inhabited only by an android named Bot, who still runs on old version of Windows.

The film has a running joke that everyone is supposed to speak English, as it is an interplanetary mission, but they keep all slipping back into Czech. There are English subtitles on the Czech parts and Czech subtitles on the English parts.

Much of the filming took place at an actual Mars Desert Research Station, a rundown simulator in a desert in Utah.

The film has an improvisational quality, with just a very loose plot. The basic idea is that a billionaire businessman financed the trip so he could get married on Mars, and brought several people along with him plus the crew. The space travel part and landing is never shown.

Mars proves to be less interesting than the group had hoped, but they are stuck there for a while.

The android, who looks human but behaves in a cold and withdrawn manner, has been stuck on the abandoned station for decades, waiting for people to return. All he had to pass the time was a comic book about the Old West. He provides somewhat philosophical narration, asking strange questions of the stars and waiting for answers that never come.

Bot has survived several huge storms and been struck by lightning, so he isn’t quite all there.

The others get into somewhat strange conflicts, and one of the female members becomes more and more delusional as time goes on, denying that they are actually on Mars. The businessman of course wants to develop the place somehow.

And of course, between three men, three women and an android there is bound to be some romance.

Much of the humor is very dry, coming out of the unusual situation and the people’s bizarre responses to it.

While the film is technically science fiction, there are virtually no special effects, no alien creatures, and none of the other typical genre elements.

The utter shabbiness of the space station and the isolation of life on a distant planet are the main themes.

Director Benjamin Tuček said that the film is a result of a contest. He and his collaborators, Zdeněk Janáček and architect Ondřej Doule, submitted a proposal to do the film as a scientific mission, and were approved to use the simulator. Doule, who appears in the film as Bot, is a scientist who previously visited the simulator site. He originally was just supposed to be an adviser, but got added to the plot at the last minute.

The cast and crew tried to follow the space station rules, which included never leaving the station without a space suit and limiting the amount of water consumed every day, but found it quite difficult.

While the film seems improvised at times, the filmmakers had a very limited time at the station, and had to be sure not to waste it. The script was co-written by Tuček and Tereza Nvotová, who also appears in the film.

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