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Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)

Aelita (original title)
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 »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Yuliya Solntseva ...
Igor Ilyinsky ...
Nikolai Tsereteli ...
Nikolai Batalov ...
Vera Orlova ...
Nurse Masha
Valentina Kuindzhi ...
Natasha, Los' Wife (as Vera Kuindzhi)
Pavel Pol ...
Viktor Ehrlich, Sugar Profiteer
Konstantin Eggert ...
Yuri Zavadsky ...
Aleksandra Peregonets ...
Sofya Levitina
Varvara Massalitinova
Mikhail Zharov
Tamara Adelgeym
Iosif Tolchanov ...
Mars Astronomer with Ihoshka
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Storyline

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 <fkelleghan@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

25 September 1924 (Soviet Union)  »

Also Known As:

Revolt of the Robots  »

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(video) | (DVD) (restored) (new edition) | | (2007 DVD edition)

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At the international exhibition of decorative arts, 1925 Paris Expo, Yakov Protazanov was given an award for this film. See more »

Goofs

When Gor is first shown in the same scene as the Princess Aelita, and he descends a flight of stairs, he trips on one of the steps and for an instant he looses his seriousness and grins. Ijoshka, shown on the right, smirks slightly when the blooper occurs. See more »

Connections

Edited into The Last Bolshevik (1993) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Science Fiction First is a must see for Fashion and sets
5 August 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Aelita is a science fiction film that features the first space travel by earthlings: Destination Mars. I recommend it highly for film history buffs and aficionados of the science fiction genre that are also interested in fashion and design.

It is hard to believe that impoverished and ravaged Russia still in the midst of the horrible Revolution that was to destroy the country economically for decades and that certainly tried its best to pulverize most of its traditional culture, could produce something so visually advanced as this film. A lot of the footage will remind you of Rodchenko photographs, or the Russian posters of the time, which were works of art done by the avant-guard artists in an explosion of creativity before Stalin's arrival sent them all underground, to exile or the Gulag.

Los, an engineer of talent and determination, thinks that the radio signal beamed all over the earth is a definite message from Mars. He frantically begins to work on a space craft that will ultimately take him to Mars, while ruining his personal life in the process(not much change there in career challenging relationships since then and now).

Meanwhile Mars' Queen, Aelita, (Yuliya Solntseva) has discovered that some of her scientists have created a telescope device that can watch the detailed life on planet Earth. She sneaks a peak through the telescope device and of course, concentrates on the first appealing sign of earthy interest, engineer Los, who has a Slavic-Icon look come to think of it, looks a lot like Vladimir Putin. She immediately falls in love with him and finds it hard to concentrate during her Martian day while constantly thinking about that man on earth....

In Mars they are all perfectly dressed in elaborate costumes that include a helmet- and-mask device for the slaves and delicate transparent plastic layers, headdresses and arm decorations for the upper class, in a very chic-futuristic look which must have influenced the bold designs of Paco Rabanne in metal and plastics a full forty years later. These outfits are quite extraordinary for being the first in this genre and are much more detailed and visually interesting than the ones in Metropolis, where only the robot is really fashioned in futuristic style.

Aelita looks gorgeous, beautifully dressed and wears a striking headdress that is most becoming, though a little cumbersome when she begs him to "unite our lips, like they do on earth" for the first red-hot kiss on Mars. She looks striking trailing her appliquéd gown in the gorgeous Constructivist set, that is surely a Modernist's dream of decor. Alexandra Exter, one of the women artists in the Russian avant guard is credited with the designs, she had considerable experience in theater sets, and it shows here. Los impulsively sides with Queen Aelita's struggle to overthrow the regime of exploitation, finding nothing wrong in the 'revolution' being conducted by an imperious Queen in her regalia, proving once again that love is blind, even in interplanetary relationships.

This was however a difficult film to watch, and that is why I gave the seven stars rating, because not unlike other great Russian films, the length and timing are just so much more extended that we are used to in the West. You may find yourself fast-forwarding the slower scenes in Soviet Russia that look particularly dim by comparison to Mars.

There is also an episode, almost surreal in the way it interjects into the Russian reality plot, where a worker breaks his chains and fashions the hammer and sickle symbol. The man's naked torso with the chains is the first we see of this allegorical vision, he looks like one of the medieval heroes from "Alexander Nevsky", but shirtless, showing off the primal muscle splendor of Slavic manhood, an unexpected delight that may well be the first unintentional homo erotic intervention in official Communist propaganda.


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