Aelita aka Aelita: Queen of Mars


What It’s About: After receiving radio signals from the Aelita, the Queen of Mars (Yuliya Solntseva), engineer Los (Nikolai Tseretli) builds a spaceship and journeys to Mars, where he finds an oppressive monarchy oppressing the working classes.

Why Watch it Today?: The second Soviet Mars orbiter, Mars-3, arrived in Mars orbit on this date in 1971 (just 5 days after it’s predecessor Mars-2).  Mars-3 launched the first probe to land on Mars.  Aelita is more of a Soviet propaganda film and domestic drama (2/3rds of the film are spent on Earth) than a sci-fi film, but the low-tech effects, costumes, and sets are charming.

No trailer, but a clip accompanied by a rather manic soundtrack:

8 comments on “Aelita aka Aelita: Queen of Mars

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    An intriguing film — saw it with a live score…. too bad a large portion of the film takes place on earth (I found that part dull) — the sets of the people on Mars are great!

  2. professormortis says:

    I saw it with a live score as well-a strange electronic/strings combo, in an art gallery. I think my interest in silent films and Soviet history helped carry me through the non-sci-fi parts pretty well, though I recognize others may not find it quite so pleasant.

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Well, I am a historian so I did place the rest in context…. but yeah, the sci-fi parts are more interesting 🙂

      • professormortis says:

        Oh, no doubt about the context-I just meant, for whatever reason, it actually amused me, but obviously I most likely wouldn’t be watching without the Mars stuff.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        Yup Yup. I think my favorite soviet film is Happiness (1935) — a bizarre surreal satire…

        Medvedkin was a fascinating guy — he believed that satire would cure the corruption of local government (obviously this didn’t sit well with authorities after a while). His project was a film train (literally) with habitation cars and studio cars that went around the countryside making documentaries depicting local corruption in mines etc. He would then show the people who worked in the mines the film and then “expose” the corruption and make them “rise” up against it…. pretty cool.

        Chris Marker (of La Jetée fame) made an intriguing (if rather uninformative) documentary (not on the film trains unfortunately) on Medvedkin called the Last Bolshevik (1993)

        (you might know all of this — but if you don’t you should look him up!)

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        AHH, Marker DID make a documentary on Medvedkin’s film trains… I really really really need to track a copy of it down — my French is pretty good so hopefully I can understand it.

  3. Joachim Boaz says:

    Medvedkin was forced by the government after the failure that was Happiness to more closely tow the party line — as in, don’t make SATIRES! — alas…

    • professormortis says:

      Thanks for the recommendations-all of this sounds fascinating-and no, I didn’t know any of it. I know some things about Soviet history, and some things about silent movies, but not a lot about Soviet film.

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