Aleksei German's Hard to be a God (Trudno byt' bogom - Трудно быть богом, 2000-2013)

The Sparrows of 2013

Adapted from a novel by famous sci-fi writers Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, Hard to Be a God had to be the last film of Aleksei Yuryevich German. A more than 10 years endeavor. An overwhelming "world premiere" at the Roma IFF, nine months after the director's death. After a first look at the film on DVD—for the purpose of coordinating the subtitles—that had left me in a state of awe, eventually comes the final print on a big screen. It is morning, and the huge theater of the festival is packed. When the film starts, many goggle at the beauty of its black and white image (after a few days of international bling-bling digital colours). I sit in the back in order to enjoy the framing without my glasses. And then comes the first outdoors scene, on this hellish planet that is going through its Middle Ages—humanity's future: city walls under a cold rain, pathetic rags, exclamations and insults… Suddenly in the left corner of the screen appears the black silhouette of a flying bird. I wonder: do I remember a bird in this scene? In just the time to blink, the bird has become two birds, their black figures coming out of the screen. It looks like a 3D effect. The entire theater gasps as two sparrows fly above the audience's heads. They pass right above me and disappear in the darkness of the gallery. Later on, German's widow and co-writer Svetlana Karmalita will tell us that a sparrow perched on her suitcase as she was boarding her plane in Moscow. Not that I am superstitious nor a friend of the Mystic Unknown, but these sparrows definitely looked like a sign. And then it became very hard to see other films, or to remember those seen. As far as I know, the film has not yet found a distributor.

So no list, just moments. Garrel's La Jalousie: first shot, a woman is crying. Tsai Ming-liang's Stray Dogs: Lee Kang-sheng is holding an advertisement sign at a crossroad and the rainy wind almost makes him fall. Jia Zhangke's Touch of Sin: a young worker holds his cell phone far from his ear and tears come to his eyes, because his mother, on the phone, asks only for money.

And a great time with nice people at the Jerry Lewis retrospective in Vienna. And the audience at Nantes' Festival des 3 Continents, speechless and overwhelmed after the screening of Fei Mu's Springtime in a small town (1948). Enough for one year.