Aelita: Queen of Mars (Аэлита) is a 1924 Soviet sci-fi film directed by Yakov Protazanov. The film is based on the eponymous novel by Alexi Tolstoy.
The film is notable for several reasons. It was most likely the first feature film to depict space flight and an alien society, and so holds a special place in the history of science fiction. Its plot was later copied in the 1951 Hollywood movie, Flight to Mars. On top of that, the constructive Martian sets and costumes in Aelita largely set the standard for alien aesthetics in film for years to come. Also, the modern score written by Glazunov, Scriabin, and Stravinsky set the stage for what sort of music people came to expect from sci-fi films.
It’s 1921, right after the end of the Russian Civil War. All around the world, different radio wireless stations start picking up the same message: “Anta Odeli Uta.”
Because of this, Los, a signals engineer in Moscow, starts daydreaming that the signal is coming from Mars.
We then see Mars and meet Aelita (Yuliya Solntseva), the queen, as well as Tuskub, the actual ruler. Theirs is a brutal society of aristocrats and slaves. The slaves work underground and are put away into refrigerators when not required.
Back to Moscow. Ehrlich a former aristocrat, now dishonest minor official, flirts with Los’s wife, Natasha. Because of this, Los grows jealous and sinks further into his daydreams. He imagines Aelita peering down on the earth, spotting him and being attracted to him.
Meanwhile, Ehrlich has stolen a large amount of sugar to sell on the black market. Although he soon comes under supsicion, he is able to divert attention towards Los’s friend Spiridonov. As a result, Spiridonov emigrates while Los is on a business trip.
Back in Moscow, Los returns to find his wife being flirtatious with Ehrlich. In a fury, he shoots her and set to leave earth in a spaceship he’s been building. All the while, he wears a disguise of his friend, Spiridonov.
The detective looking for Spiridonov, Kravtsov, starts following him. Kravtsov gets to Los’s spaceship site and hides himself inside the craft before takeoff. Soon, Los takes off and travels with a motley crew to Mars.
On Mars, they are welcomed by Aelita. Upon first meeting Aelita, Los sees an image of his wife again and falls into despair. Even so, the two fall in love.
Through a series of events, the Soviet earthlings kindle a revolution of the downtrodden Martian workers. At the head of the revolt is Aelita herself. However, as soon as she has the army behind her, she orders them to turn against the Martian working class.
Disgusted at this, Los kills Aelita. Then, immediately after, he wakes up and realizes that his woman-killing, space adventure rampage was all a dream.