If you’ve ever seen Fritz Lang’s Metropolis you know that silent, black and white movies can be every bit as vibrant, entertaining, intense, visionary, and rich as any other movie. In fact, in the period just before the advent of sound film reached visual heights and complexity unrivaled until decades later. Sound forced a reduction in scale, due to the requirements of rudimentary early sound equipment. All this means that there are some astonishing silent science fiction films that can be found. Here are 5 silent science fiction films that pre-date Lang’s masterpiece, from the British Film Institute:
A bait-and-switch space travel movie from the Soviet era, Aelita Queen of Mars combines science-fiction, enjoyably preposterous costume design, constructivist sets and a story of revolution. In contemporary Moscow, a mysterious radio signal inspires a young engineer, Los, to dream that it is a communication from Mars. The red planet is shown as a desperately unequal society where aristocrats are waited on by mistreated slaves, but the cruel queen trains her galactic telescope on Earth and falls in love with the engineer. Events back home in Moscow are interposed with Los’s voyage to Mars, where, with all the good instinct of a Soviet worker his companion, Gussev, encourages the Martian underclass to rise up against their oppressors. The message is that solidarity extends across borders and even between planets, but this film is far more celebrated for its bizarre and brilliant style, which has been cited as an influence on Lang when he came to make Metropolis.
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