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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 01.05.15] Russia scifi history arthouse



I think I'll have trouble imparting the experience of watching this film without sounding more insane than usual since, within the first third of this unbelievable scrapbook of violence and persecution, my common sense packed up and went south for the winter.

For the sake of brevity I'll assume you've read the novel at some point in your life and are aware of the history of the movie itself, because this isn't a normal movie. It's a behemoth of untold proportions that I'll have to chip at with a bronze chisel. Therefore I'll give you my impressions in no particular order.

There are obvious parallels to draw between Hard to be a God and Lawrence of Arabia, or The man who would be king in that it includes a cultured westerner who finds himself among primitives and the evolution of his natural propensity towards greed or altruism in a world devoid of what he perceives as Civilization. Yet none of the aforementioned works, however great they are, managed to convey such a nauseating culture shock.



Filth. Filth everywhere you might dare to look. The hero is never alone on screen for a single second. He's always surrounded by beings of the medieval woodcut quality. Enclosed spaces stuffed to the brim with furniture and trash. Two hours into this you gasp for fresh air, for the mere image of a distant landscape, a visual pause to gather your thoughts and ponder. But it never happens and the madding crowd continues to press on both the hero and the audience.

And this without even considering the atrocities committed liberally for, obviously, such beasts cannot behave otherwise. It's actually a pretty good illustration of the limits of scientific neutrality in social studies. Our hero here cannot intervene while observing violence on others. That burden is unfathomable, and every single detail on screen is there to share it with the audience. And it works marvelously.

I always say watching Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain is like taking your soul to the dry-cleaner. This, on the other hand, is like swan-diving into a cesspool. You will walk out of the theater feeling soiled and yet unbelievably at ease with our world.


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quietearth (7 years ago) Reply

Don't forget the poo


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