(1924) dir. Yakov Protazanov
For quite some time really, I’ve been wanting to see Aelita: Queen of Mars. I can’t remember if I’d either read something of it or simply had stumbled on the video box back at Le Video, SF’s once proud video store.
“The first Russian Science Fiction film!” So it is often noted. And the other thing, the thing that makes me think that I did actually read something about it too was knowing that the film’s key influence were its Constructivist Martian set designs and costuming.
I think it all depends on what you come to the film hoping for.
As a Science Fiction film, it’s an aspect of disappointment. Most of the story is set in the at the time contemporary Soviet Union and focuses on several intertwined narratives that are essentially that of melodrama. Their own key difference, in a sense, from American films of the time is the Soviet culture in the setting, the government structures, and the living conditions. The melodrama is pretty easily picked up and placed anywhere.
And when it comes to the space travel, and the alluring Aelita of the film’s title, it’s all imagined and the adventure is all a dream. So, in a sense, the commitment to fantasy is only there as fantasy, which may be so for a multitude of reasons.
It’s easy to try and read politics into the film, as propaganda perhaps. I’ve just read a brief but interesting take on the film’s politics, arguing that there is perhaps a richer approach than to the immediately obvious things, for someone whose 19th and 20th century Russian history is tepid at best.
For my money, it was a little disappointing, though I think I also recall having heard that from time back. But that said, I think I’m more prepared to appreciate it today than I was whenever 15 odd years ago when I first discovered its existence.
See, it can be worthwhile to have a memory.