Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
Original title: Trudno byt Bogom
Russia, 2013. Sever Studio, Telekanal Rossiya, Lenfilm Studio. Screenplay by Aleksey German, Svetlana Karmalita, based on the novel by Arkadiy Strugatskiy, Boris Strugatskiy. Cinematography by Vladimir Ilin, Yuriy Klimenko. Produced by Viktor Izvekov, Leonid Yarmolnik. Music by Viktor Lebedev. Production Design by Sergey Kokovkin, Georgiy Kropachyov, Elena Zhukova. Film Editing by Irina Gorokhovskaya. Online Film Critics Awards 2014.
Aleksey Germany began production on this adaptation of the cult novel in 2000 and, sadly, died before its release in 2013. It’s a fluid, beautifully shot allegory that plays like a modern day but less compelling Marketa Lazarova, about scientists sent to an Earth-like planet that is still stuck in what look like our middle ages. The people in this world have repressed their Renaissance and kept their people living in muddy, illiterate misery by murdering anyone they deem learned or progressive. One of the scientists takes on the false identity of a nobleman in order to move through society and seek out a doctor who might help accomplish the team’s goodwill mission of moving progress along, but this becomes difficult as he gets more and more mired in the lowness surrounding him. A fascinating plot and some very effective imagery (you truly believe you’ve gone to the dark ages) speak well for the massive effort put into pulling this project off, but it is also incredibly difficult to sit through. There’s a complete lack of dramatic interplay between characters, all the dialogue is tossed out from the sidelines as we move through each sequence, a lot to ask from an audience for three whole hours. It’s strictly for fans of the book or those who have made the conscious choice to be wholly challenged by it, or better yet those who weren’t thrilled with the 1989 version; everyone else will be bored stiff.