Mars Needs Communists!
I don’t know why I expected the first Soviet science fiction film to be any different from the last Soviet science fiction film, in that it’s confusing and paced so slowly you feel like you’re watching Terri Schiavo die in real time, but I decided to give this early silent film a shot. I had high hopes that it would either entertain me or lull me into one of those blissful sleeps where wild string orchestration provides the soundtrack to a Expressionist killing spree dream, where nubile women elaborately pantomime their terror before I relax my hunched shoulders long enough to throttle them in bed. Sadly, the film did neither. It was extraordinarily boring, and the score was entirely too heavy on the timpani to do much lulling. Nevertheless, it did have some interesting moments, though I wouldn’t strictly classify it as science fiction. It does involve a rocket ship at one point, and several scenes are set on Mars, where a bushy-browed princess rules over a proletariat society with an iron fist and a ridiculous hat. A lot of people have stupid hats on Mars, actually, making the whole planet look like a cross between Jackie Kennedy’s closet and a Qin Dynasty exhibit. But, as it turns out, all the Mars scenes are actually dream sequences, showing that even hardworking Communist screenwriters get too lazy to write themselves out of corners.
All jokes aside, Communism actually does play a big part of this film, as the Ruskie propaganda machine was in full force during the making of this film. Wait. Did you hear that? It sounded like a bunch of American readers rapidly clicking away from this blog and frantically heading over to less liberal websites, like the Department of Defense 101 Slide Show or God Hates Fags.com. And rightly so. I did use the C-word, which is anathema to many Americans, either because of lingering Cold War paranoia, or because it shares many of the same letters as terrorism and requires at least four years of grade school in a Blue State to tell the difference. For the record, I am not a communist, and did not become one by watching Aelita, so it’s safe to continue with reading this review, unless you’re being monitored by a Patriot Act enabled FBI computer program, in which case you’re probably screwed anyway, because I’ve been under investigation ever since I posted a negative review of Cinderella Man, thereby proving that I hate America.
The film follows a Soviet engineer, Los, who receives a mysterious radio message beamed from Mars, and subsequently kills his wife. Those two events are not connected, but to explain how one follows the other would take about as much time as watching the movie yourself, and we’d probably both get distracted by internet gambling sites before we got too far. On the run from the law, Los decides that the best course of action would be to pose as a rocket scientist, build a spaceship, and escape to Mars, an idea that may seem ridiculous at first, but one has to consider that it comes from a country that sought to institute a world economic policy based upon a kindergarten-level concept of sharing. Once on Mars, Los discovers that the entire planet is dependant on an evil capitalist economy, where exploited workers toil endlessly under intolerable conditions while the elite rulers eat caviar and mug for the camera. Ever the revolutionary, Los instigates a proletariat revolt and imposes a new socialist republic, where exploited workers toil endlessly under intolerable conditions while the elite rulers eat tinned rations and hold their pants up with rope. Then he wakes up and the terrible movie ends, proving once again that communism is a pipe dream, capitalism is a nightmare, and the world is a better place now that the Soviet Union no longer makes science fiction movies.