Even though science fiction is a genre that can quite literally tell any kind of story imaginable, sci-fi cinema is filled with constant derivation funneling out around a handful of good ideas. So it’s great when filmmakers decide to head into less-expected territories that don’t involve stereotypical aliens or Philip K. Dick-ian dystopias. We welcome those kinds of films too, but it’s always much more interesting when something like the above trailer comes along from that area of left field where stillness doesn’t exist. If you’re like me and speak less than a speck of Russian, you might not know that this is a trailer for the late Aleksei German’s Hard to be a God, an adaptation of the 1964 novel from sci-fi novelist brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
This is German’s last film, and remarkably only his sixth in a career that starts back in the late 1960s. Many of his projects were plagued with problems, a la Terry Gilliam, and even if Hard to Be a God were only the trailer seen above, I could understand how daunting a task it would have been to direct. Beyond the textured production design and massive attention to detail, these scenes are so busy with movement, like a well-choreographed found-footage movie directed by someone whose eyeballs were moistened by hallucinogens. The use of foreground and background elements is so distinct, harking back to the early days of cinema when complicated camera movements were either too expensive or impossible. The black and white doesn’t hurt the “classic” aesthetic either.
Oh, I guess this movie has to have a plot, right? The film centers on Don Rumata (Leonid Yarmolnik) and a group of Earthly historians who are preforming an intelligence mission on the planet Arkanar, where civilization never got past the Middle Ages, where abuse and completely abhorrent behavior were everyday occurrences. Though the historians can’t actively get involved in the dismal lives of the planet’s inhabitants, their mission is to find different members of the population who are unlike everyone else and who can be pillars of social change.
I can’t wait to check this out, as it looks like a more active version of Ben Wheatley’s excellent A Field in England. It will make its debut in Russia at the end of the month, but there’s no word on when U.S. audiences might get a hold of it (legally).
Check out another recently released teaser for the film below, which is dialogue free, but still visually maddening.