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Hard To Be a God

The Russian director Alexei German Yurievitch (1938 - 2013) started his film career in 1967. He made only six feature films. Graduated from the theatre school in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Alexei German starts in Lenfilm, the oldest Soviet studio converted into a stronghold of art house films.
Until Perestroika, German faces censorship. Yet his 1984 film "My Friend Ivan Lapshin," is at the top of a list of the 10 best Soviet films selected by a panel of critics on the occasion of 70 years of the USSR. In 1998 he directed "Khrustalyov, My Car!" which also meant an international recognition which allowed him to realize his long term project, the adaptation of the novel of the Strugatsky brothers "Hard to Be a God."



Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, two brothers born just before WWII, are driven by the same passion that drove Alexei German. They are widely recognised as the masters of SF writing in the Soviet Union. Their work is indirectly known by every film buff, as their most popular novel ‘Roadside Pic Nic’ served as the inspiration for Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’.
The Strugatsky’s created their own distinct universe ‘Noon’ which they situate in the 22nd century. In this universe, the New Man evolves in an ideal communist meritocracy led by technocrats and philosophers. The other planets in this universe are all models of less developed societies which vaguely remind us of a bureaucratic and brutal Soviet Union which is miles away from the communist ideal. The Strugatsky brothers used this universe in which communism triumphed as a clever way to evade the Soviet censorship.
1964’s ‘Hard To Be a God’ is one of the novels from this Noon cycle and is a fine example of the hardly hidden critical tradition in which the authors worked. The name of the novel’s protagonist, an authoritarian fascistic brute called Don Reba, for example, is a fairly obvious anagram of Lavrentiy Beria, the terrifying chief of Stalin’s intelligence services, who had recently died at the time.



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French [fr] or Dutch [nl] page.


Alexei Yurievich Guerman, 2013, RU, DCP, ov st fr & ang, 170'

On another planet in the 22th century, which is going through its own version of the Middle Ages, a group of historians from Earth live pretending to be average people. The main character, known as Don Rumata, is disgusted by cruelties he observes on an everyday basis but is prohibited by his superiors from interfering and possibly changing the natural course of history of the planet. The only thing the historians have a right to do is to protect and help a select few individuals who seem to be different from everybody else and can benefit the entire planet through their knowledge and ideas. Rumata has to find one of these people, Budakh, and rescue him from the hands of Don Reba, a grey cardinal ruling for a weak king and later, an insane tyrant.

04.04 > 20:00 + 05.04 > 20:00 + 09.04 > 20:00 + 11.04 > 20:00 + 12.04 > 18:00 + 18.04 > 20:00 + 19.04 > 18:00 + 26.04 > 20:00 + 01.05 > 20:00 + 03.05 > 20:00 + 10.05 > 20:00 + 17.05 > 20:00
5€ / 3,5€


Playback

Dur d’être Dieu

Antoine Cattin, 2012, RU-CH, ov ru st fr, 67'

Both a successful documentary about the filmmaking process and a resonant metaphor for the state of Russia today, its murky past and uncertain future, Antoine Cattin and Pavel Kostomarov’s “Playback” chronicles the attempts of director Alexei German to bring to term a long-cherished film project – an adaptation of the science-fiction novel “Hard to Be a God” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. In their own way, Cattin and Kostomarov filmed the same story: the “wild planet” is actually the film set of “Hard to Be a God”, and the God in question is, naturally, German, with his emotional peaks, impossible orders, and a level of abuse towards his film crew that has never been so crudely documented. The film is also a personal statement by the Swiss-born Cattin, a long-term resident in Saint Petersburg, of his ambivalent feelings towards his adopted second homeland.

05.04 > 18:00 + 19.04 > 21:00
5€ / 3,5€


Peter Fleischmann, 1989, DE-RU-FR, 35mm, ov de st fr, 119'

The first cinema version of "Hard To Be a God", a Fench-German-Soviet coproduction, was the result of a long and difficult process which eventually disappointed everyone in the late 1980s. The film offers a weird mix of science-fiction and heroic fantasy in a kind of Germanic design. Very strange indeed.
The already confusing narrative is complicated even more by the different genres that are juggled around and blurred: the earthlings keep in touch with undercover observer Don Rumata from a space ship orbiting the planet he is exploring! The script was written among others by the renowned Jean-Claude Carrière, Peter Fleischmann directed, cartoonist Jean-Claude Mézières ("Ravian") designed the set – all involved in a conscious attempt to reconcile Blockbusters, 80s B-series and contemporary Russisan cinema (style"Kin-dza-dza", as seen in Nova not long ago) with a restricted budget. All in all, however, the film does contain some beautiful surprises and on the whole makes for a very intriguing creation: the vintage 1980s atmosphere, the futuristic folk music (as in German’s version) and a cameo of Werner Herzog make this film into an enjoyably weird example of an already incongruous genre!

12.04 > 21:00 + 26.04 > 18:00 + 17.05 > 18:00
5€ / 3,5€


German’s muddy and obscurantist vision of the Middle Ages brings to mind the Middle Ages of Terry Gilliam and Monty Python. With black humor, they paint an uncompromising portrait of a miserable spineless people, with incapable and coward rulers and a dishonest and ridiculous clergy. These elements are rooted in literature and in a disillusioned observation of reality.
The Strugatsky brothers, Lewis Carroll, Laurence Sterne, Chaucer, Rabelais and Cervantes... For all of them the art of novel writing allows an escape through imagination in order to land with both feet in reality and to end up in the mud, plagued by rampant stupidity.



Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, 1975, GB, 35mm, ov st fr & nl, 91'

prog: 0
Sorry, no English version for this article.
French [fr] or Dutch [nl] page.
25.04 > 20:00 + 10.05 > 18:00
5€ / 3,5€


Terry Gilliam, 1977, GB, video, ov st fr, 105'

prog: 0
Sorry, no English version for this article.
French [fr] or Dutch [nl] page.
25.04 > 22:00
3,5€ / 2,5€


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