Alexey German (1938-2013) is one of the most courageous and least compromising of directors in the history of Russian film. German established his career in the 70′s as a member of a group of important directors working in the famous Lenfilm studios in Leningrad. The Leningrad creators usually enjoyed more freedom than their colleagues who worked in Moscow under the central government’s supervision. However German, although he enjoyed relative freedom, still suffered from recurring harassment from the authorities, who held back his movies, censored and even confiscated them. German was almost completely ignored in the Western World, in contrast to other directors of his stature such as the famous Andrei Tarkovsky. German created his own unique style, characterized by dynamic, mesmerizing cinematography in black and white. His films abound with constant motion and long, complex shots, which inspired creators such as Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma. The cinematic world he created was deeply influenced by the horrific results of the Second World War and thus has a blend of violence, coarse language and an attitude toward the use of force.
German was born in 1938 in Leningrad to the cultural aristocracy of Soviet Russia. He is the son of the Jewish writer, playwright and screenwriter, Yuri German, who befriended such political personalities as Stalin and Gorky. There is no doubt that the father’s influence is recognizable in German’s films, some of which are based directly on texts written by the father. The young German studied film and theater under the great Gregory Kuznetsov. He started out as an apprentice in the Russian studio method and gradually became a creator in his own right. German developed his work together with his wife, Svetlana Karmalita, who was also the main screenwriter of his films. He died unexpectedly in 2013 from cardiac complications, moments before finishing his last film, on which he had been working for about 14 years, Hard to Be a God. This ambitious project was based on the 1964 science fiction novel by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. The film, which German never got a chance to share with his audience, is something of a cinematic summary of his heritage. It is a violent, dark and mesmerizing work, which echoes on in the viewer’s mind long after it is seen.