Aelita, Queen of Mars
Copresented by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Booth Wilson, currently a lecturer in the Department of Film & Media at UC Berkeley, is the author of The Cinema of Yakov Protazanov, the first book in English covering the director’s entire career, which will be released in April.
Valentia Kuinzhi, Nikolai Tseretelli, Konstantin Eggert, Yuliya Solntseva,
Aelita tells of three Russians—an engineer, a soldier, and a detective—who fly to Mars and become involved in a revolutionary uprising among the Martian people. While there, the engineer has a love affair with Aelita, Queen of Mars, played by Yuliya Solntseva. The lavish art direction—the outlandish costumes by Alexandra Exter and the Constructivist sets of the fantastic Martian landscape—is the most famous attribute of Aelita. The film is equally fascinating, though rarely cited, for its detailed look at life in the USSR: housing shortages and residual class conflicts are revealed to play havoc on personal lives. It is this that our satirically neurotic heroes attempt to escape. But, on Mars, technology itself has become the instrument for disenfranchising a whole class of people.