Tag Archives: russian cinema

Interlude 1: Hal’s response to my thoughts on Hard To Be a God.

13 Aug

(My pal Hal has responded to my thoughts on Hard To Be a God with great aplomb. I’ve posted them here, unexpurgated and uncommented on by me. I expected he would be irritated with my interpretation, and in fairness to him, I haven’t made up my mind about the movie myself. There’s something so haunting and unsettling about the film—it works is what I’m saying, even if it doesn’t. It’s reverberating in the nether twilight of my brain.)

Begin Hal’s thoughts now:

Here’s my basic critique of your HTBAG reading. I agree, or agree to disagree, with most all of it. But the line about the film being utterly false—I’m not exactly sure what you’re demanding of German here. You start the review by laying out the film’s terrain as science fiction, and then go on to level your harshest critique of it being out of line with the Historical Middle Ages. I mean, the overture literally lays out the delineation between Arkanar and Earth: the Renaissance never happened there. Different place, different reality. Also, if we actually want to go down the road of comparing it to the Historical Middle Ages (and I’ll be clear that I think any comparison should be aesthetic rather than historical, but here goes), the black death killed 1/3 of Europe. No anesthesia. No plumbing. Purges of the intelligentsia. Whole Gamut. But seriously, 1/3 of the continent dead. No Divine Comedy or Decameron crowns that affair, no matter how perfect. German’s film is a reaction to Putin’s Russia. The Historical Middle Ages was a reaction to the fall of the Roman Empire.

Tarkovsky believes in the power of art and the artist, and his style is pure. German believes in nothing, and I think it’s just as pure. It’s like Bernhard versus Krazsnahorkai. The shear relentlessness and force and audacity and absurdity of German’s vision is the relic, is the arc. You don’t need poetry in a film for it to be a piece of poetry, though there are plenty of lines of Pushkin scattered throughout.

Also, the main character looks like Louie CK, so thinking it was just a long episode got me through the doldrums.