Hard to Be a God
Aleksei German spent 15 years directing this adaptation of the classic Russian sci-fi novel only to die before its release. Few filmmakers could imagine creating a more detailed, distinctive and expansive swan song; it can fittingly be called the work of a lifetime. Taking place on the planet Arkanar, a fetid Medieval hellscape vision of what our own planet would be like if there had been no Renaissance, it follows a scientist from Earth who has installed himself as a ruling lord with the intention of leading and guiding, but in practice is simply struggling to stay afloat in the squalid swamp.
Touching on themes including primal wretchedness, anti-intellectualism, corruption and brutality, the film is a three-hour wasteland of violence, faeces, vomit, spit, non-sequitur and fourth wall-breaking. It’s bewildering, darkly hilarious, something of an endurance test, and made with such epic scale and precision that it’s also breathtaking. [Ian Mantgani]