Back to the future in Arkanar: The Strugatskiis, Aleksei German Sr and the problem of injustice in Hard to Be a God
Science Fiction Film & Television
Liverpool University Press
Reason for embargo
This article examines the treatment of the ethical problem of human injustice, cruelty and oppression in Boris and Arkadii Strugatskii’s 1964 novel Trudno byt’ bogom (Hard To Be A God) and its screen adaptation by Aleksei Yurevich German, Trudno byt’ bogom: istoriia arkanarskoi rezni (Hard To Be A God: History of the Arkanar Rebellion; Russia 2013). I also draw briefly on the Strugatskiis’ 1976 stage play based on their book, Bez oruzhiia (Without Weapons), and the 2006 screenplay co-written by German and his wife, Svetlana Igorevna Karmalita, Chto skazal tabachnik s Tabachnoi ulitsy (What the Tobacconist from Tobacco Street Said), each of which differs significantly from other versions of the narrative. I explore the very different production histories of the Strugatskiis’ novel and German’s film, analysing their resonances with other texts from the canon of Western sf fiction and cinema. Arguing that neither the novel nor the film is strictly sf at all, I suggest (following Elana Gomel) that their generic ambiguity is a deliberate ploy to make each text an allegory of contemporary Russia. Finally, I assess selected Western and Russian critical reactions to the film, concluding with a revealing parallel between the plot of Trudno byt’ bogom and that of Russia’s earliest sf classic, Yakov Protazanov’s Aelita (USSR 1924).
Author version of paper. The version of record is available from the publisher via: http://dx.doi.org/10.3828/sfftv.2015.16
© Liverpool University Press
Vol. 8, pp. 233 - 253