A group of scientists are 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
I've never written a review here, even though I'm more than dozen years a user. And most likely will not write one ever again. But forgive me for boring you with the personal introduction, it's just coming out to show you how much for me is this piece of filmmaking worth writing at least a few words. And I can only hope it will be for someone else too.
The plot is quite clear: a man out of time. In every possible sense. A team of experts, including explorer/militant/scientist/philosopher/royalty? called Don Rumata, is set on a distant planet whose civilization's grey Purgatory of reality is similar to Earth's grim and barbaric Middle Ages. His mission: to protect the very few progressive minds he can get. Thing is, he can't show his advantages and in no case can he interfere killing, therefore allowing all natural history course of this parallel society. Like a spectator who can only touch on the surface and hurt inside, bright and impotent. It's not easy being neo-God.
This simple yet great story is what makes the book written in the '60s by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky ("Roadside Picnic" which became "Stalker") a great one too. But what takes all this to a new-wave level of greatness is Aleksei German's lifelong desire to film it and his magnum final result of a vision where you are almost the main protagonist, you breathe and think and feel and will probably bleed right beside him. A result which German died just before seeing officially finished and which is now in the form of three hours that took fifteen years in the making.
Three Russian hours from 21st century of black-and-white world of past, future, fiction, reality, chaos, mud, blood, vom*t, p*ss and sh*t and yet there is love and even music to be found in the filth of German's Inferno. Where I saw it at the Sofia International Film Festival, I witnessed walkouts, boos, applauses, tears of despair or joy. But what I experienced thoroughly was me sitting on the floor in the overcrowded theater in complete petrification, silent, a little confused and in awe. Confused by how much German added to the story, the ambiguity, the layers of detail and questions in depth he raised. And in awe of how was this shot, structurally and technically speaking. Even for a film student like me it raised only questions. To not spoil anything, I feel I should only say you have to watch it completely open-minded and forget about the book (which still must be read beforehand) or visual feasts such as, for example, "Birdman" and all the overpraising it got. Don't get me wrong about Chivo Lubezki who I adore, but this is a cinematic achievement way ahead even of its prolific time. Because by the end of all the daze and decay, you are completely unaware whether it's Don Rumata, you or the world around that is transformed. But into what? It's up to you to find. Just drain yo' self:)
It was released more than a year ago at festivals, theatrically and on the internet, but is yet due to receive the grand recognition it deserves. My take is this can happen in five, fifteen, a hundred years from now or maybe never: something I can not and will not believe. No one can now for sure, but anyone could easily sense that as far as narrative cinema goes, HARD TO BE A GOD is most definitely the timeless film of our present. You can thank the Germans (father and son) or the Strugatsky brothers; I choose to thank humanity.
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