De pers over HARD TO BE A GOD
Is het toeval dat drie van de grootste Russische films zijn gebaseerd op het sciencefictionwerk van de broers Arkady en Boris Stroegatski? Stalker (1979) van Andrei Tarkovski, Days of Eclipse (1988) van Alexander Sokoerov en nu Hard To Be a God (2013) van Alexei German (1938-2013)
lees de recensie
een film zoals ze maar een keer in de twintig, dertig jaar gemaakt worden. Het is de stijl die German’s film zo uitzonderlijk maakt. Uniek. De camera zit op de huis van Rumata. Die voert ons als een gemankeerde Vergilius door deze modderige, vochtige oerwereld. Alsof Bruegels kruisdraging op een verdraaide manier tot leven komt. Een ontzagwekkende film.
Het is alsof de schilderijen van Hieronymus Bosch tot leven zijn gekomen en bevolkt worden door figuranten uit late Fellini-films.
Germans film levert een unieke kijkervaring op die je niet licht vergeet.
…krijgt German het voor elkaar om in deze helse wereld van mist, regen, vuur, modder, bloed, poep, slavernij en bedorven eten een zekere schoonheid te vinden….Die overbevolkte decors zijn vergeleken met het surrealistische werk van Fellini en de helse taferelen van Jheronimus Bosch.
Omarm daarom de kunst en beleef ‘Hard to Be a God’. Want de film biedt meer dan alleen die indringende thematiek. Het camerawerk is van een vloeiende heerlijkheid, die het werk van Fellini in herinnering brengt. De acteurs gaan in volle overtuiging mee in de grenzeloze ranzigheid. De aankleding is vol en gedetailleerd. Maar wees ook gewaarschuwd.
lees de recensie
German verfilmde de scifi-satire tot een duivels puike dronkemanstocht door een vuige, surrealistische zwart-wit-wereld. Alsof hij met zwarte magie de schilderijen van Hieronymus Bosch tot leven bracht. Ter vergelijking: bij al dat rottende gerochel verbleekt de post-apocalyptische wereld van Mad Max als een schoongepoetst toilet.
lees de recensie
“Hard To Be A God,” the final film by the inspired Russian director Alexei German is not only an unforgettable individual masterpiece, but probably one of the capital-G Great Films.”
“The roiling setting alone enforces a medieval mind-set that feels genuine: brutal yet often jovially rambunctious and crude, pre-psychological in its sense of the cheapness of life and yet rich with local custom and detail.”
New York Times
“Without knowledge of the source material, a 60s novel by ‘Stalker’ authors Arkadiy and Boris Strugatskiy, the movie can be inscrutable in its early goings, but give yourself over to this singular art film and you will be richly rewarded.”
STATEMENT FROM ALEKSEI GERMAN
Svetlana and I usually spend the weekend in the country watching movies. Usually old ones. We have seen «Amarcord» or Tarkovsky’s films thousands of times. We know them by heart. It is amazing how we are losing the art of film without even realizing it. When you watch a scene from «Stalker» with crying Kaidanovsky you immediately realize at which high level it was created. Neither Russian nor American contemporary films can reach that level. Film has turned into something for people who are bored to read the book, and that is why the contents of the book are narrated to them by actors. This tendency
is crucial for artists as well. That is why I almost never watch modern movies. I am quite happy with Bergman, Kurosawa, Fellini’s «Roma», Otar Ioseliani. Muratova’s films, some works by young directors sometimes. Speaking about actors it is getting more and more difficult to find them and when you finally succeed, it is sohard to tell them: «Look, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?! Instead of working your guts out, instead of putting in your soul and heart, you are just trying to hit fancy. You should be afraid of it and run away from it as fast as you can!» Film is a divine art, which is now overtaken
by lazy people with empty eyes which they are covering all the time with their hands. In my film there appears a short and fat actor who is trying to fly – and he is a brilliant actor. The man playing the part of the king is an actor from a far away small thatre for children, meanwhile he could glorify any theatre in the capital. Take a look at Aleksandr Chutko – the very first moment I saw him I said, bring this man to me, he would make a perfect Don Reba.
But the main problem is that a smart, well-educated spectator has become more and more rare, very hard to find and recognize.
During all our coupledom Alesha and I argued whether film is a fine art or a rough art. This argument never came to any conclusion. But I think we both knew how senseless that discussion was. There can be no other answer than this: film is a high art and it can be percepted only this way. Every time at the start of a new project Alesha said that this time he would make a film with a clearly twisted plot, so that any average lady sitting in the cinema could understand everything. A very simple story with a good guy revealing the sense of the film to the spectators and sharing it with them. «We share one blood, me and you». And if the audience would not share the protagonist’s views that would be for a very strong reason. But Alesha was always filling the space around the protagonist with various objects and traces of time relevant not only for the screen character but also for the huge world around us. Through the characters’ problems he showed problems of humanity, adding more and more lines and fates. Thus the plot became irrelevant and was moved to the background. Even for an attentive and smart viewer it always remained clear and understandable. For the first time this misunderstanding happened in the film «My Friend Ivan Lapshin». Several years after the same people watched “Khrustalyov, My Car!” and said: «Was it that hard to make it easier for comprehension? «Lapshin» was an absolutely clear picture!». More years passed and a viewer after watching «Hard to be God» in a very shy manner confessed: «I got mixed up with the plot, everything was so crystal clear in «Khrustalyov»». I would like to address to spectators: “Hard to be God” is a very simple to understand film. It is the best work by Alesha in my mind. But I have always valued each of his new films as a better one compared to previous ones. I would like to give the following advice: just watch the protagonist and try to share his life.
The film “Hard to be a God” is unique not only because it portrays a whole artistic reality with incredible authenticity. Each detail shown in the film is developed with an all-or-nothing approach. For example, the swords are made on the screen in exactly the same way they were made 700 years ago. The life of a medieval town is reconstructed with respect to every minor part of it. The uniqueness does not even lie in fantastic expressive faces of the cast – the search for actors covered all parts of Euroasia. It is in this way the whole project was combined for an outstanding movie that holds artistic truth in each single element. This type of movie is not made anymore. And it is quite doubtful that in the future someone might make it again. It is at the top of antiindustry moviemaking. The authors of this movie never accepted a single compromise. Sometimes sacrifying their lives for the true film art. This movie is a defiance to the hardened modern film industry, to the general perception of the way a movie should be, to the simplified understanding of the world.
Aleksei German, Jr.
“Aleksei German’s career was not ‘a case’. And much less ‘a case of censorship’. He stood by every film in his highly personal opus, which he produced against everyone and everything, in the course of an artistic and philosophical progression that is absolutely mind-boggling, displaying a powerful auteurist imprint even in his first “real” feature-length film, the heretic Trial on the Road (Proverka na Dorogakh, 1971-1985). A controversial figure for any regime, German soon began his battle against the censors and the bureaucracy of the Soviet filmmaking system, which continued throughout Brezhnev’s rule. Not only because his films broke the rules and wilfully neglected the practices of post-thaw Socialist realism, but above all, because had his filmmaking, as an auteur, become successful, it would have disrupted existing theoretical, ethical, and stylistic structures and themes. His explosive influence had to be stopped. In his 46-year career as a director, German was therefore allowed to make only five films and a half – the ‘half’ was a debut codirectorship.” “His attention to the difference with respect to the demands of the present, his predilection for dissent rather than consent, alarmed non-Socialist Russia’s commercial system, which then invented new obstacles to the filmmaker’s tenacious creative impetus. But that did not stop him from developing ambitious projects, which led to the production of extreme films such as Khrustalyov, My Car! (Khrustalyov, mashinu! – in competition at Cannes in 1998) and Hard To Be a God.” “Hard To Be a God marks the conclusion of the director’s exploration of time and memory, connecting the absurdity of the past and the present with that of the soon-to-come Medieval Age. In this film German wants to tell fantastic stories, while keeping faith to his concern for documentary authenticity. This is a documentary filmmaker who, having penetrated into the imaginary world of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings (according to German, ‘Bosch is far more realistic than Rubens’), obstinately continues to try and capture the smallest details.” “Aleksei German was a genius artist who has been very persistent in his radical approach. An artist who always chose to address insurmountable problems. If fate could give me one last opportunity to dine with him today, in one of those Dostoevskian-Leningrad restaurants he was so fond of, I would quote this Russian proverb to him: ‘It takes a Chinese to solve a difficult problem. But it takes a Russian to solve an impossible one.’ A Russian genius like him.”
Marco Muller (artistic director, Rome Film Festival)
In this age of Netflix, streaming video and burn-on-demand DVDs, it can be all too tempting—comforting, even—to think that there is no more cinematic terra incognita left to be discovered, that all of the treasures of world moviemaking are simply lying in wait for us to dial up in our living rooms. And yet there is the case of Aleksei Guerman, who is indisputably one of the greatest filmmakers alive in the world today, but whose work has, until now, been nearly impossible to see, little distributed outside of his native Russia (with the exception of the French co-production Khrustalyov, My Car!) and wholly unavailable on any home video format in the English-speaking world. To be fair, Guerman’s films—five features to date, all shot in stunning blackand- white and staged in complex, obsessively detailed tracking shots that rank with the best of Scorsese and De Palma—have long been championed by a small but enthusiastic cult of admirers, including the programmers of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, who selected My Friend Ivan Lapshin for the 1987 edition of New Directors/New Films (somewhat ironically, in that it was already Guerman’s fourth feature) and Khrustalyov for the 1998 New York Film Festival. (Both were savaged by their respective reviewers for The New York Times.) But today, even the savvy art-film goer is unlikely to have heard of Guerman, let alone seen any of his work — a dilemma for which this retrospective represents one small corrective.
from the introduction to the 2012 Aleksei German retrospective programmed by US critic Scott Foundas at New York’s Lincoln Center
HARD TO BE A GOD is set in the future on a planet bogged down in the darkness of the Middle Ages. Now, just what memory, even a collective one, can German possibly be thinking of here? In fact this film, destined to be his final, concludes the director’s long-standing inquiry, linking the grotesqueness of contemporary reality (which in the 20th century echoed with the return of some of the Dark Ages’ worst nightmares—the destruction of culture, the legal enshrinement of xenophobia, civil war) with an authentically photographed fictional universe, re-created in this case according to the paintings of the Northern Renaissance instead of newsreels and photos … Enraged by the futility of the events going on around him and the deaths of his friends and beloved, (the leading character) Rumata, whose powers seem godlike to the planet’s inhabitants, abandons the role of neutral observer and takes up arms, brandishing a sword of vengeance. The carnage he unleashes on Arkanar is comparable to the Holocaust and Hiroshima: a reign of pure terror that cannot be adequately expressed in either words or images. But what will change after this Sodom and Gomorrah? Only one thing: God will cease to be God and, having acknowledged the vile human nature within himself and accepted it as punishment, will be exiled from his comfortable paradise. In the Strugatsky Brothers’ book, after the carnage Rumata flies back to Earth; in German’s film, he decides to remain in exile on the abominable Arkanar forever.
Russian critic Anton Dolin
from his article “The Strange Case of Russian Maverick Aleksei German”, published in FILM COMMENT (2012)