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A group of scientists is sent to the planet Arkanar to help the local civilization, which is in the Medieval phase of its own history, to find the right path to progress. Their task is a difficult one: they cannot interfere violently and in no case can they kill. The scientist Rumata tries to save the local intellectuals from their punishment and cannot avoid taking a position. As if the question were: what would you do in God's place? Director's statement Aleksei wanted to make this film his entire life. The road was a long one. This is not a film about cruelty, but about love. A love that was there, tangible, alive, and that resisted through the hardest of conditions. Written by
Svetlana Karmalita/Rome Film Festival
The movie starts with the quotation above, and that's probably worth remembering throughout its lengthy 3 hours run. Despite the description, 'imagine the Dark Ages where no Renaissance has come' from Strugatsky book which was the inspiration for the movie, it's not quite so. IT IS another planet. Dark Ages, Middle Ages were portrayed times and again, and when you see castles, mud, horseshit - it's all clear and understandable.
Not here. For at least a third of the film I had trouble to grasp what's going on, be it on first plan or backstage... it was captivating, with truly amazing, remarkable stage set, but... alien, of sorts. Hard to get what's inside these people heads, what are they doing. It forces you to put the tiny little grey cells to work - and it's great.
The picture is top-notch. It strangely reminded of graphic novels like Sin City and 300 - you can print the frame out and use it as a wallpaper. Black and white in this case, sure, but deep and artistic nonetheless.
Stunning performance from Leonid Yarmolnik as Rumata, his best role hands down in his long career. He's known mostly as a comedy actor, but here shines as a dramatic, almost tragic figure.
Great movie, and NOT an art house gem. Having said all that, I would NOT recommend it to any person: you have to decide to go through the catharsis by yourself, and that's the only way you'll get through it.
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