Soviet Sci-fi: the top three films you should be watching!
Soviet Sci-fi is a genre that has fostered some of the most significant developments in cinema throughout both Russia and the West. Although often overlooked, Soviet Sci-fi films are a great way to engage with Russian vocabulary and pronunciation, as well as to develop your understanding of colloquial Russian. In this article, I will explore the top three Soviet Sci-fi films that belong at the top of your watch list!
Heart of a Dog, (1988)
Directed by Vladimir Bortko and set in Moscow in the wake of the October Revolution, ‘Heart of a Dog’ is a black and white film based upon the novel of the same name of Mikhail Bulgakov. The film follows Sharik, a starving street dog taken in by an experimental scientist and used as a test animal in an attempt to transform him into a man by giving him a human consciousness. The film explores themes of poverty and desperation in a time of significant social and political change and sharply questions what it is to be human.
Aelita, the Queen of Mars (1924)
A Soviet Sci-fi classic, “Aelita, the Queen of Mars” emerged as the cornerstone of the genre as a silent film in 1924. Based on the 1923 eponymous novel of Alexei Tolstoy and directed by Yakov Protazanov, the film follows the vivid daydream of engineer, Los, (Nikolai Tseretelli), who dreams of travelling to Mars. An illustration of Soviet Sci-fi’s engagement with contemporary social and political issues, “Aelita the Queen of Mars”, explores and challenges perceptions surrounding revolution and the inevitable cycle of corruption associated with power. Following the film’s release in 1924, such questions surrounding corruption and power became all the more significant with Stalin’s ascension to Party Leader in the wake of the death of Lenin in 1924.
The Amphibian Man, (1962).
First released in 1962, the Amphibian Man, or «Человек-Амфибия», was produced by avant-garde directors Vladimir Chebotaryov and Gennadi Kazansky, and based upon the 1928 novel of the same name by Alexander Beliaev. A personal favourite, the film engages with themes of greed and the capitalist exploitation of nature, all the more significant today given our current Climate Crisis. The plot follows Ichthyander, (Vladimir Korenev), the son of a scientist, who, following an experimental surgery performed by his father, is granted the ability to breathe underwater. Despite its elements of musical theatre, the film remains a romantic tragedy at heart as the protagonist falls in love with the daughter of a local pearl-fisher, but is forced to contend with the irresistible pull of the ocean.
Darcie Peters is currently a student of Russian language at Liden and Denz.