Hard to Be a God (2013 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2014.

I saw it at GIFF 2014, with poor English subtitles and welcome clarifications by the director's wife and co-writer, Svetlana Karmalita.

Commentary

Russian art film based on the books of the Strugatskys. Aleksey German had originally planned to make this film in the 1960s, but permission was revoked(?) by the censors because of the decision to crush the Prague Spring. That was 1968, in what is now the country where the film was made. This is entirely appropriate: The novel was admired by the Soviet intelligentsia as a comment on Soviet terror and anti-intellectualism, which were finally cemented in the invasion of Prague.

Fortunately, the film is not just an allegory of its own production history. It's a fine study of dark-age mentalities and perhaps the most carefully considered, intentionally unenjoyable fantasy of wish fulfillment on film. Some of the dubbing and foley work is a little off, and it may be a little more pretentious than Tarkovsky. I asked Karmalita if any animals were harmed in the making of this film. She said no: the cow was old! It was going to be slaughtered anyway.

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