Aelita: Queen of Mars

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(8/10) In a nutshell: This highly visually influential 1924 sci-fi classic from the Soviet Union is not at all the socialist propaganda it is sometimes lambasted as, but rather a daringly critical and multi-layered satire on the concept of the popular revolution. Unfortunately its multiple Earth-bound social allegories also make it surprisingly talky for a silent film, resulting in occasionally dull stretches.

Aelita: Queen of Mars. 1924, The Soviet Union/Russia. Directed by: Yakov Protazanov. Written by: Alexei Fayko, Fyodor Ostep, Yakov Protazanov. Based on the book by Alexei Tolstoy. Starring: Nikolai Tsereteli, Nikolai Batalov, Yuliya Solntseva, Valentina Kuindzhi. Cinematography: Emil Schünemann, Yuri Zhelyabuszhky. Set design: Viktor Simov. Costume design: Alexandra Exter. Produced for Mezhradom-Rus. Tomatometer: 100 %. IMDb score: 6.5

Yuliya Solntseva as the mesmerizing Aelita.

Yuliya Solntseva as the mesmerizing Aelita.

Aelita: Queen of Mars, has been just as highly praised as it has often been misunderstood, primarily by western critics. There are few, though, who contest its visual influence on the genre of science fiction. It is also the first Russian/Soviet science fiction film, closely rivalled by Lev Kuleshov’s The Death Ray (Luch Smerti) that was made the year after. The silent film was released in 1924, and was a box office hit, but a critical failure. It remains director Yakov Protazanov’s best remembered film. The film is sometimes dismissed by western (amateur) critics as a blatant example of communist propaganda, but this is not really the case, neither did the Soviet critics and politicians at the time see it as such. But we will get into that later. Continue reading

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