When and Where Does Spaceman Take Place?

The setting of Netflix’s science fiction film ‘Spaceman’ is immensely intricate. While Jakub Procházka’s efforts to learn about the Chopra Cloud seem futuristic, his spacecraft and equipment remind the viewers of the appeal of the late Soviet Union era. The car of Jakub’s wife Lenka and the aircraft his commanding officer Tuma uses further takes the audience to the past. This collision of the idea and appeal makes the movie a unique cinematic experience. Director Johan Renck crafted the movie with several intricate details for the viewers to immerse themselves in the world of the “Spaceman.” SPOILERS AHEAD.

Johan Renck’s Retro-Futuristic World

‘Spaceman’ does not reveal when its narrative takes place. Jakub sets out to study the Chopra Cloud after the establishment of the Czech Republic, which makes it clear that the setting is after the fall of the Soviet Union, despite the appeal of the movie. The cosmonaut’s father must have died during or after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, which happened in 1992. Jakub was a young man, likely in his early twenties, at the time. If that’s the case, the narrative is likely set in the 2020s. In an interview given to The Hollywood Reporter, director Johan Renck described the setting as a “retro-futuristic world.”

According to Renck, the film deals with the aftermath of the Communist regime that existed in Czechoslovakia, which justifies the retro appeal. Renck had enough experience building such a world after directing the HBO series ‘Chernobyl.’ “’Chernobyl’ and ‘Spaceman’ happen to have a similar kind of aesthetic because the book ‘Spaceman’ comes from [‘Spaceman of Bohemia’] is based on the world of the Czech Republic, and it deals with some of the same sorts of remnants of the Communist regime, so there are touching points with the world of ‘Chernobyl’ and 1980s Russia and Ukraine,” the filmmaker added to The Hollywood Reporter. Thus, it is fair to place the narrative of the science fiction film in the present time or near future.

Renck also sees his film as a commentary on the contemporary times. In the movie, Jakub manages to do his mission with the sponsorship of two companies that sell an anti-nausea pill and a decontaminant respectively. While facing danger, the cosmonaut has to promote the decontaminant to use it. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily critical to capitalism per se, but it is a reflection on the spectacle that is human life in modern days. We are here led to believe that we’re here to buy shit. That’s all it is,” the director told Inverse.

The Outskirts of Jupiter

When the film begins, Jakub has reached the outskirts of Jupiter, which is around 700 million kilometers away from Earth. In Jaroslav Kalfař’s 2017 novel ‘Spaceman of Bohemia,’ the Chopra Cloud is situated between Earth and Venus. “Nearly a year and a half ago, a previously undiscovered comet had entered the Milky Way from the Canis Major galaxy and swept our solar system with a sandstorm of intergalactic cosmic dust. A cloud had formed between Venus and Earth, an unprecedented phenomenon named Chopra by its discoverers in New Delhi, and bathed Earth’s nights in purple zodiacal light, altering the sky we had known since the birth of man,” reads the book.

In the movie, however, the solar phenomenon is placed near Jupiter, at the edge of the solar system. In a time when the human species aspires to colonize Mars, the region between Earth and Venus is not far enough to explore the theme of “solitude.” This can be why Renck and screenwriter Colby Day decided to set the narrative far away from the humans’ reach. This change of setting helped Renck and Day to place Jakub as the “loneliest person in the world.” The film then explores the losses of Jakub as a partner and father since he decided to travel to Jupiter by bidding adieu to his wife Lenka, who is pregnant with their child, especially while she wants to separate from him.

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