Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Hard to Be a God released by son after director’s death

When director Alexei German died last year, some of his devotees feared that his potential international legacy might depart with him. While he was arguably the voice of his generation, known as the living torch of Andrei Tarkovsky, the 74-year-old master was little known and underappreciated in the West, especially in the U.S.

His defining film and magnum opus was still in postproduction, and many feared it would never reach the screen.

The much-anticipated film, “Hard to Be a God,” has finally opened in Russia after a terribly long wait. German spent more than 13 years (15 if you count pre-production) shooting the film, showing it to journalists and friends, editing, re-editing and enslaving it in post-production.

He wanted a film like no other before it. Even fans of his work had thrown up their hands and stopped waiting. Then German died in February 2013. Yet film buffs soon discovered hope anew. Rumors circulated that perhaps the film would be shown after all. His son, Alexei German Jr., has also emerged as a film director. In his mid-thirties, he has already had considerable success — in part because there is now an infrastructure for Russian film that wasn’t there for his father 20 years ago.

German Jr. assembled “Hard to Be a God” with the help of his screenwriter mother and screened the work at the Rome Film Festival in November 2013. Huge, reverential crowds watched as his family, dressed in black, entered the theater.

Author Umberto Eco gave it a glowing review, drawing a memorable contrast between German and another director: “After seeing German’s films,” Eco wrote in an essay, “you can rest assured that Tarantino’s films are mere Walt Disney productions.” It is true that “Hard to Be a God” is not for the faint of heart.

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