The much anticipated final film from Russian director Aleksei German reached near-mythological status long before it was ever completed, but Hard to Be a God proves to be a fitting magnum opus for the notoriously perfectionist auteur. While relatively unknown outside of Russia, German is regarded as a filmmaker of import second only to Tarkovsky in his motherland.
“The luxuriantly detailed, nearly three-hour film adapts the 1964 Strugatsky brothers’ novel about scientists in the future who journey to another planet that’s literally stuck in the Dark Ages, and then live there undercover. But German (who died in February 2013) retains so little of the science-fiction frame that his black-and-white film becomes the closest thing medieval times may get to a vérité documentary portrait – warts, mud, guts and all. Set during civil conflict, the film mostly follows Earth-born, armor-clad Don Rumata (Leonid Yarmolnik), who poses as the baronial offspring of a pagan god... Fish-eye lens compositions, fine-grained photography, marathon takes and constant intrusions from off-screen combine to impart the sense of a living world...
‘Film is a divine art,’ German is quoted as saying in the film’s international press notes. This particular Godly work by the Russian master was completed by his long-time partner, Svetlana Karmalita, and son, Aleksei German Jr, after 13-plus years of on-again, off-again shooting and postproduction. Its vigor and openness to multiple allegorical readings will endure for years to come.” — Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment
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