Before Hard to be a God was a hit video game, it was a novel by the indispensible Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, adapted into a 1989 film starring Werner Herzog. And now it's been adapted into a new, black-and-white film that looks incredibly grueling and intense.
In Hard to be a God, scientists from Earth travel to an alien planet that's stuck in a Medieval level of civilization, oppressed by a brutal religion. Theodore Stugeon praised Hard to be a God as "one of the most beautifully written, heavily freighted SF novels I have ever read."
This movie version is the final work of the late Alexei German, released posthumously in Rotterdam, where it was described thusly:
The planet Arkanar looks like a medieval hell ruled by totalitarian evil. A messenger from Earth has a mission to introduce humanitarian ideas, unaware that they don't always work. A stunning black-and-white fresco of a world that lost its chance to be saved. A farewell from one of the greatest Russian filmmakers.
Alexei German, who died in 2013, was always a fierce critic of authority. In his last film, he looks into the ultimate hierarchy: that of God and man. On the planet Arkanar, which halted its development in the Middle Ages, there are 30 terrestrial scientists. Don Rumata and his colleagues observe Arkanar with the knowledge of everything that could happen, but they cannot intervene. They are helpless gods in a world in which intellectuals are hunted like game.
[via Twitch Film]