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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2013

3 - The Limits of Futurity: German Science-Fiction Film over the Course of Time

  • Edited by Jaimey Fisher, Associate Professor of German and Cinema and Technocultural Studies, and Director of Cinema and Technocultural Studies, at the University of California, Davis.
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 71-90


Count Down

Fritz lang's 1929 Die Frau im Mond (The Woman in the Moon) is rightly known for its invention of the so-called “countdown” practice and hence for how science-fiction cinema has the ability to envision and shape our use of various technologies long before their actual arrival. Lang's film abounds with images and procedures later generations came to associate primarily with the sober ingenuity of the NASA space program, whether we think of the slow passage of the rocket to its launch pad, the travelers’ intricate preparation for take-off, or the capturing of the experience of weightlessness. A product of Lang's well-known preoccupation with space travel, Die Frau im Mond thus seems to do what science-fiction cinema does at its best, namely mobilize elaborate special effects for engineering a credible preview of coming technological attractions. And yet today's audiences may find it quite difficult to sit through an entire screening of Die Frau im Mond for reasons other than mere curiosity. The film's historical achievement, its ability to prefigure a future that has become a future generation's past, has also contributed to the film's relative oblivion. Precisely because history has proven Lang's imagination right, Die Frau im Mond no longer holds our attention. The film's posthumous fate is representative of the unique dilemma of both science-fiction filmmaking and the critical writing about this genre. Dedicated to visions of futurity that are both stunning and believable, science-fiction features have to risk rapid aging and forgetting in order to keep believably ahead of reality.