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Who Is Rusalka? Spaceman’s Folklore Character & What They Mean In Adam Sandler’s Movie


WARNING: SPOILERS ahead for Spaceman.


  • Spaceman features a mythical theme with a small but standout cast including Adam Sandler & Paul Dano.
  • Director Johan Renck brings his award-winning touch to Spaceman, despite mixed reviews.
  • Rusalka’s presence in the film symbolizes Jakub’s journey back to the beginning with Lenka.

The mythical figure Rusalka is a major theme in the new Netflix sci-fi movie Spaceman. The Adam Sandler-led movie has a small but outstanding cast, starring Paul Dano as an extraterrestrial arachnid creature and Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan as Lenka, the pregnant wife of Sandler’s astronaut protagonist Jakub. Spaceman provides another notable dramatic performance from Sandler that has previously been seen in previous works such as Uncut Gems, Punch-Drunk Love, and Hustle. Jakub receives the unfortunate news that Lenka wants to divorce him while he’s halfway on a 12-month solo mission to outer space.

Spaceman was directed by Johan Renck, known for his award-winning work on Chernobyl (2019), Breaking Bad (2009–2011), The Walking Dead (2010), Vikings (2013), and Bloodline (2015). Despite Renck’s impressive filmography, Spaceman has received mixed reviews from critics, earning a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 51% as of its streaming release date of March 1, 2024. In Spaceman, Jakub is tasked with gathering samples of the mysterious yet mesmerizing Chopra Cloud while facing the existential crisis of potentially losing Lenka. Dano’s guru-esque talking spider named Hanuš helps Jakub understand the origins of the universe while he simultaneously looks for a way to begin again with Lenka.


Spaceman Ending Explained: What Happened To Jakub?

The ambiguous ending of Spaceman leaves Jakub on a personal high note after a cerebral, life-changing experience in the mysterious Chopra Cloud.

The Slavic Folklore Of Rusalka Explained

Carey Mulligan and Adam Sandler stand intimately close together in Spaceman

Rusalka is mentioned several times in Spaceman in reference to Jakub’s feelings towards Lenka. Rusalka first appears as Jakub listens to a tragic opera in his spaceship, which piques Hanuš’s curiosity. This occurs at the beginning of the film, not long after the arrival of Hanuš. Jakub explains that Rusalka was a water nymph in Slavic tradition, a beautiful feminine entity that traditionally posed a threat to man. This is why toward the end of Spaceman, Lenka, who is apparently dressed as the mythical water nymph in a dreamlike sequence of alternate reality in a forest, tells Jakub that a kiss from her would kill him.

Rusulka figures have different meanings and personalities, depending on who you ask. In Slavic tradition, “rusalki are beautiful, charming girls, dressed always in light robes of mist, singing sweet, bewitching songs to the passersby” (via Britannica). Conversely, Russian interpretations of rusalki are quite the opposite, being described as ugly, wicked, and malicious. The common link between all the variations of rusalki is their desire to entice men. Rusalka is not the name of one entity, such as Medusa, but is instead more of a species, like sirens. It is believed that rusalki descended from Slavic paganism and is comparable to mermaids.


Was Hanus Real? Paul Dano’s Talking Spider In Spaceman Explained

Paul Dano’s talking arachnid creature is the most unforgettable aspect of Spaceman and has a major impact on Sandler’s Jakub whether he’s real or not.

How Carey Mulligan’s Spaceman Character Connects To Rusalka

Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan nearly kiss in Spaceman

During many of the flashbacks and dream sequences in Spaceman, Carey Mulligan’s Lenka is dressed as a rusalka on the first night that she and Jakub meet. She also appears to be in the same costume in the forest dream sequence at the end of the film, sitting on a branch above a pond. Primarily, Lenka is seen as a rusalka when Jakub is envisioning her, whether in his memories or in his imagination. It seems that Lenka shares a rusalka-like ability to entice Jakub, as he cannot seem to stop thinking about her despite being on an incredibly important space mission.

It’s important to note that Lenka in reality wishes to leave Jakub, which is completely opposite of how Jakub views her in his fantastical mind. The real Lenka is trying to pull away from Jakub, yet he continues to see her as a rusalka, which could be the film’s way of conveying how captivated Jakub was by Lenka when they first met. Seeing Lenka in the Rusalka costume at the end of the movie implies that Jakub, with the help of Hanuš and the all-encompassing Chopra Cloud, was able to go back to the beginning of his love for Lenka. By Spaceman ending on this note, Lenka and Jakub appear to have regained their romantic spark.


Spaceman’s Chopra Cloud & Purple Dust Explained

The dazzling Chopra Cloud in Netflix’s sci-fi drama Spaceman is no MacGuffin, contributing greatly to the theme of Jakub’s eternal love for his wife.

What Rusalka’s Presence In Spaceman Really Means

Lenka dressing as Rusalka in Spaceman is essentially the film’s way of demonstrating how Jakub returns to “The Beginning”, which is how Hanuš described the Chopra Cloud. The mysterious vibrant particles in the cloud provided Jakub with a restorative sense of clarity that ultimately enabled him to begin again with Lenka after he tells her how he really feels. Jakub experiences so much through Hanuš and the Chopra Cloud, that he can finally look past his guilt and fears and be guided by the hope that he and Lenka can start again. When Jakub sees Lenka dressed as Rusalka at the end of Spaceman, it’s clear that their relationship has gone back to the start.

Spaceman Poster Showing Adam Sandler Walking Through a Forest in an Astronaut Suit


Spaceman is a sci-fi drama starring Adam Sandler and directed by Chernobyl director Johan Renck. The film, based on the book Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař, follows Jakub Procházka who goes on a solo mission to space and encounters a mysterious creature as he begins to lose touch with reality.

Johan Renck

Release Date
March 1, 2024

Free Association , Tango Entertainment


Colby Day

107 Minutes


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