Directed by Aleksei German / 2013 / 180 minutes / Black and White / Russian w/English subtitles

micro budget flick picks - eric kochmerSo … who thinks they like movies set in the middle ages? Who thinks they like a fun sci-fi epic? Who thinks they like post-apocalyptic atmospheric film? Well … when Aleksei German spent 6 years in pre-production, 6 years shooting, a few years in post (he died in post)… and he had you in mind. Its apples and oranges to compare Hollywood films to this film. Hollywood would never make a film like this.

From moment one, as an audience we are thrown into a world of piss and shit and puke and snot and grabbing of the face and … on and on and on — oh with some alternative jazz dropped in for good measure. This is one of the most important and hard to watch films anyone will ever come across. Children dancing with human intestines — a man being executed by being stuffed head first into a giant shit hole. The film almost feels like you are in the middle of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch and you aren’t allowed to leave. That’s the best way I can describe the experience of watching it.

Roughly here is the story (there are really no big spoilers to give out): A group of scientists travel to a neighboring planet that is much like the Earth (inhabited by the same people, etc) except that it has never evolved past the middle ages. So while studying the people, the scientists blend in as Lords. There is a bit of a plot here but it’s really a non-factor. A masterwork like this isn’t about the plot, it’s about the philosophy behind ignorance.

This was made by a Russian man who grew up in the Soviet Union, saw it fall and then witnessed the arrival of a different force of control in Putin. This a swan song by an old master who only made five or six films in his life — but each one is unique and utterly detailed, human and overall political. HARD TO BE A GOD was his obsession since the 1980’s. It was a famous work of Russian literature that was turned into a horrible British epic in the late 1980’s. He made the kind of movie that Russians used to get thrown in jail for 20 years for. What a film.