Directed by: Yakov Protazanov
Starring: Yuliya Solntseva, Igor Ilyinsky, Nikolai Tsereteli
Apparently this is the first Russian science fiction film. That’s pretty neat. It’s got some pretty awesome sets and costumes that clearly influenced the look of Buck Rogers in later years. However, the science fiction aspects of this film aren’t really the things that make it as good a movie as it is. Allow me to explain…
The Russians start receiving a strange radio message that’s just three strange words repeated over and over. One scientist believes that this is a message from the people of Mars, and starts devoting his life to inventing a spaceship that’ll allow him to travel there. He fantasizes about what Mars might be like; a bizarre spacey Roman sorta thing ruled by a queen and a council of elders who are at odds with each other. He keeps drawing further and further into fantasy as he spends more time designing his spaceship, until he finds what he thinks is his wife cheating on him. In a fit of rage he shoots her and, believing that she’s dead, runs off and becomes completely engrossed in his fantasy. He sees himself building his ship and going to Mars, then leading a revolt and bringing socialism to the red planet. He’s snapped out of his elaborate imaginatory world when he sees a poster for a tire company with the strange radio message on it… it was nothing but an ad campaign. He rushes home to find that he missed when he shot at his wife and he destroys his spaceship plans, instead vowing to focus on doing real things and being with his wife.
The insane fantasy climax on Mars in this movie is pretty awesome, and I love the way they used it to just prop up the actual story of this guy becoming obsessed with his inventions. If there are any drawbacks to the movie, I’d say that it’s the way everything is way sped up (because it’s from the 20’s and they just used a different frame rate back then) and shit just happens so fast it’s hard to keep track of at times. Another weird thing about watching really early movies like this is wondering how much they really knew about the language of film and how much of this stuff they were pioneering. I recommend this film, so long as you don’t have any issues watching an awesome two hour long silent film.