This is called the first Soviet science fiction film because of its "futuristic" sets on Mars, although most of it takes place in Moscow. The movie is set at the beginning of the NEP (New ... See full summary »
This is called the first Soviet science fiction film because of its "futuristic" sets on Mars, although most of it takes place in Moscow. The movie is set at the beginning of the NEP (New Economic Policy) in December, 1921. A mysterious radio message is beamed around the world, and among the engineers who receive it are Los, the hero, and his colleague Spiridonov. Los is an individualist dreamer. Aelita is the daughter of Tuskub, the ruler of a totalitarian state on Mars in which the working classe are put into cold storage when they are not needed. With a telescope, Aelita is able to watch Los. As if by telepathy, Los obsesses about being watched by her. After some hugger-mugger involving the murder of his wife and a pursuing detective, Los takes the identity of Spiridonov and builds a spaceship. With the revolutionary Gusev, he travels to Mars, but the Earthlings and Aelita are thrown into prison by the dictator. Gusev and Los begin a proletarian uprising, and Aelita offers to lead ... Written by
Fiona Kelleghan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
_Aelita: Queen of Mars_ is a visually-interesting satura ("mish-mosh," "stew"), bringing together soap opera, political drama, romantic comedy, crime-drama + farce, science fantasy, and, finally dream-vision.
The sequences set on Earth tell some rather, well, mundane stories of jealousy and political corruption, interesting for being set in Moscow during the hungry years around 1924 and having the villain a minor Soviet official.
(Caution, though: the villain's name is spelled "Erlich" in the titles on the Kino re-issue of the film. If that is a correct rendering, that's the Yiddish word for "righteous" and a Jewish name, so Comrade Erlich may be oddly Jewish--if aristocratic _and_ Bolshevik--and the film engaging in some old-fashioned Russian antisemitism [where confused categories aren't surprising]. If the name is "Ehrlich," Comrade Minor Official may be of German descent and the film more newfangled in trashing insufficiently Russified German-Soviets [who are also aristocrats and Bosheviks].)
The scenes on Mars are much more interesting, visually.
As David A. Cook states in his _History of Narrative Film_ (a standard film-course text), the Martian sets are "designed completely in the Constructivist style." They follow the principles of Vsevelod Meyerhold in trying to create "a machine for acting": which works here in producing a futuristic vision that was to go on to the FLASH GORDON series and other visually classic works of High Modernism.
There's also imagery of a Mechanized Underworld and Mechanical Hive: ideas that don't go back beyond H. G. Wells's _Time Machine_ (1895) and _First Men in the Moon_ (1901) and E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" (1909)--and visual and thematic possibilities that were going to go on to works from Fritz Lang's _Metropolis_ (1926) to George Lucas's _THX-1138_ (1971) and beyond. And there's a revolution on Mars, which is something neither Lang nor Lucas could/would pull off.
Ideologically, _Aelita_ is about as sophisticated as _Birth of a Nation_ or _Metropolis_ or _Gone with the Wind_, and less offensive (even to a viewer named "Erlich"). It should be seen for the same reason as we see _Wizard of Oz_ and _Dune_: to see the visuals. Just Fast-Forward through the dumb parts, in all of them.
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