After a stint working as an assistant director at the Lenfilm studio, Guerman was assigned to his first long feature, co-directed by Grigori Aronov. And although Guerman, who clashed with Aronov during the shooting (“I felt like an old, unliked husband,” he said in a 1988 interview), would later distance himself from the film, The Seventh Companion nevertheless remains rivh with Guerman’s stunning use of black-and-white and profoundly humane view of ordinary men and women caught up in the absurdities of wartime. Based on the novella by Boris Lavrenev, the film unfolds during the “Red Terror” campaign that swept across Russia during the Civil War. Having been arrested with other former members of the Tsarist bourgeoisie, Maj. Gen. Adamov (Andrei Popov) is cleared of his alleged crimes and released back into society. But in the post-revolutionary world, Adamov’s apartment has been turned into a crowded commune and, with nowhere else to turn (“The fact that you are alive is a misunderstanding,” he is told), the soldier begins a campaign to return to the battlefield. A dress rehearsal of sorts for the subsequent Trial on the Road and Twenty Days Without War, The Seventh Companion stands as an essential part of the Guerman filmography. —Film Society of Lincoln Center
Aleksei Yuryevich German (in Russian: Алексей Юрьевич Герман) (born on June 20, 1938) is a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, most active as a director and screenwriter. His last name is pronounced with a hard “g” and in English is frequently spelled Guerman or Gherman to avoid confusion.
Almost all of German’s films have been set during the Stalin era and have shown the time period in a critical light. His films, shot mostly in black and white or very muted color, have a distinctive “murky” look and are often described as looking “aged.”
His son, a film director, is also named Aleksei German.
German was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg, Russia) in 1938; his father was the writer Yuri German. He studied under Grigori Kozintsev until 1960, and then moved on to working in theatre before joining the Lenfilm studio as an assistant director. He made his directing debut with Sedmoy Sputnik, co-directed with Grigory Aronov in 1967. Over the course of his career, many of… read more
"The Seventh Companion barely stands out from any number of other Soviet Thaw–era films on the Russian Revolution, but it contains many of the main characteristics of German’s future work: uprooted protagonists who, rejected by both sides, act according to conscience but increasingly doubt its rationality (the only way to verify it is to die); the black-and-white photographic haze of the past; and finally, the switching of primary and secondary characters, foreground and background, main action and subplot—in German’s films, these hierarchies are abolished once and for all and the revolutionary maxim 'He who was nothing will become everything' takes on new meaning. Trivial details are at the very core of German’s films, where nameless extras are sometimes more important than the films’ ostensible stars."—Anton Dolin, Moskovskie Novosti
The Russian maverick has passed away at 74. From our archives, coverage of his 2012 NYC retrospective.