Aelita, The Queen of Mars
Aelita, The Queen Of Mars is a Socialist science fiction spectacle and in 1924 was the first big-budget movie from Soviet Russia. A year and a half in the making, it was intended as ideologically correct mass entertainment which could compete both in Russia and abroad with the Hollywood films that dominated Soviet and world screens while also earning plaudits for artistic innovation such as had greeted The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and other German expressionist films.
Aelita is a fantastic adventure about Los, an engineer living in Moscow, who dreams of Aelita, the Queen of Mars, and builds a spaceship to take him to her. They fall in love, but Los soon finds himself embroiled in a proletarian uprising to establish a Martian Union of Soviet Socialist Republics! This story is based loosely upon a novella by Alexei Tolstoy, a distant relative of Leo Tolstoy, who had established a reputation for popular novels, poetry and drama before 1917 and who had just returned to Moscow after emigrating during the Revolution. The director, Yakov Protazanov, was a pre-Revolutionary Russian film giant who was persuaded to give up a successful new career in France and Germany to offer his skill and prestige to the untried Soviet film industry.
The most interesting element in this film - the basis for its enduring fame - is its design: amazing "Martian" costumes and sets by the distinguished abstract painter Alexandra Exter and her accomplished protégé, Isaak Rabinovich. Informed by cubism and other design trends in France, Italy and Germany, they are executed in the distinctively Russian avant-garde style of the day, known as "constructivism."
Despite its long inaccessibility, Aelita has survived in excellent condition. This bizarre and haunting work has at last been restored to view in a first class edition with new English intertitles and a new piano score by Alexander Rannie based upon vintage themes by Sergei Prokofiev.
Produced for DVD by David Shepard