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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>
Certainly one of the more interesting and unique silent movies that you will see, "Aelita" is well worth watching despite its flaws. It's no masterpiece, but it offers an intriguing and often creative mix of science fiction, melodrama, and history. It also has an interesting story that holds your attention and moves at a pretty good pace.
Don't be automatically put off from seeing this film by the fact that everyone mentions the dose of silly Soviet propaganda that comes with the rest of it. It's definitely there, but the political elements are not terribly obtrusive or heavy-handed, although there are a couple of times when they are unintentionally humorous. There are many other themes that are just as prominent, or more so - such as relationships and jealousy, fantasy and reality, real-life concerns versus idealistic projects.
The dual settings of Moscow and Mars are used rather well, setting off the differences and similarities between the two societies and relating them to the concerns of the characters. There is a nice contrast between the settings and props in Moscow, which are drab but effective, stressing the pressing concern of everyday matters, and the weird, distinctive Martian sets and costumes. The latter are creative and interesting to look at, and if they are sometimes a bit over-the-top, they are no more so than most cinematic conceptions of other planets. The film's historical setting is also quite interesting in itself. It is set a few years before the movie's release, at a time when Russia was just emerging from the chaos of revolution and civil war. The atmosphere of rebuilding and uncertainty forms an important part of both the plot and the themes of the movie, and it also provides a historical look at an often forgotten era. Most of the cast and characters (at least the ones in Moscow) are believable enough that you want to find out what happens to them amidst all this.
You can certainly find plenty of better silent movies or better sci-fi movies than this, but you would find many more that are far worse, and not nearly so distinctive. For the price of putting up with a handful of political blurbs, you get to see an interesting story with some substance and plenty of unusual and creative details.
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