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also known as Trudno byt bogom

Hard to Be a God2013

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  • 4.2
When legendary Russian auteur Aleksei German died in 2013, he left behind this extraordinary final film, a phantasmagoric adaptation of the revered science fiction novel by the Strugatsky brothers (authors "Roadside Picnic," the source novel for Andrei Tarkovsky's STALKER). HARD TO BE A GOD began percolating in German's consciousness in the mid-1960s and would actively consume him for the last fifteen years of his life. He brought the film close enough to completion for his wife and son to apply the finishing touches immediately after his passing. Taking place on the planet Arkanar (which is in the midst of its own Middle Ages), HARD TO BE A GOD focuses on Don Rumata, one of a group of Earth scientists who have been sent to Arkanar with the proviso that they must not interfere in the planet's political or historical development. Treated by the planet's natives as a kind of divinity, Don Rumata is both godlike and impotent in the face of its chaos and brutality.

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"Aleksei German’s final film is a testament to how far directors can pull us into their worlds, their minds, their imaginations, and how much artists can achieve even under the worst circumstances." - Scout Tafoya, Keyframe


4 members like this review

The late director Aleksei Guerman’s last film is a grandly arbitrary carnival of neo-medieval depravity. It’s also a mudpunk allegory of Russian barbarism and sheer backwardness. The story takes place on a planet that knew no Renaissance (let alone an Enlightenment) and keeps its inhabitants, with their modern-day consciousness and vernacular, trapped in the low-tech crudeness and amoral violence of the Middle Ages. The protagonist is an Earth-born scientist sent to investigate the retrograde realm, where he’s known as the nobleman Don Rumata and is considered divine. The drama begins with the killing of an intellectual critic, which sends the stagnant society into an inexorable spiral of wanton slaughter. Guerman films these monstrous visions with an obsessive attention to detail. With a glistening black-and-white palette, he smears the screen with mud, blood, and excrement; he displays a mad glee in designing, building, and deploying grotesque tools of torture and murder; his roving, wide-angle closeups render the teeming cast as living gargoyles. Yet his disgust and horror are set off with aesthetically distanced satire; the movie’s artful pride in brazen destruction is itself a political commentary. I was reminded of Tarkovsky's "Stalker" in ways, yet Guermans vision was brilliantly executed, 15 years in the making, and coming in a little over 3 hours, this film is a must for any serious fan of Russian cinema

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Member Reviews (4)

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top reviewer

The late director Aleksei Guerman’s last film is a grandly arbitrary carnival of neo-medieval depravity. It’s also a mudpunk allegory of Russian barbarism and sheer backwardness. The story takes place on a planet that knew no Renaissance (let alone an Enlightenment) and keeps its inhabitants, with their modern-day consciousness and vernacular, trapped in the low-tech crudeness and amoral violence of the Middle Ages. The protagonist is an Earth-born scientist sent to investigate the retrograde realm, where he’s known as the nobleman Don Rumata and is considered divine. The drama begins with the killing of an intellectual critic, which sends the stagnant society into an inexorable spiral of wanton slaughter. Guerman films these monstrous visions with an obsessive attention to detail. With a glistening black-and-white palette, he smears the screen with mud, blood, and excrement; he displays a mad glee in designing, building, and deploying grotesque tools of torture and murder; his roving, wide-angle closeups render the teeming cast as living gargoyles. Yet his disgust and horror are set off with aesthetically distanced satire; the movie’s artful pride in brazen destruction is itself a political commentary. I was reminded of Tarkovsky's "Stalker" in ways, yet Guermans vision was brilliantly executed, 15 years in the making, and coming in a little over 3 hours, this film is a must for any serious fan of Russian cinema

4 members like this review
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top reviewer

1 1/2 Three hours of medieval torture inflicted upon the viewer. Nothing but an astonishing creation of Dark Age filth and brutality, and that starts getting painful after thirty minutes. No story at all and the dialog is completely rambling drivel. Three minutes of narrative in the beginning is the only clue that this is supposed to be science fiction. Painful. Just painful. I’m so relieved that I never have to watch this again.

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top reviewer

Aleksai German's Hard To Be A God (2013) is hardly a sci-fi film at all. The sci-fi theme is limited to a few scant references in the dialogue to planet Earth. For me, this film is an Avante Garde/Absurdist portrayal of Medieval life right here on Earth. Therefore, the sci-fi angle to story seems more like a literary ploy to give the viewer an entrée into the rather bizarre world portrayed in this film. This film made me reflect on the fact that the history of Europe need not have necessarily proceeded as it did from Medieval times, to the Renaissance, to the Enlightenment. It could have very well stalled, and decayed in the Medieval period, as is portrayed in this film. However, the advanced stage of decay in this Medieval society suggests that it is monolithic, with no nearby, healthier society to overcome and conquer it. That surely would've been the case if the real Medieval society of Europe became even close to the state of decay and stagnation portrayed in this film, for, in reality, the contemporaneous, neighboring. more advanced Islamic civilization was quite ready to conquer Europe, if given the opportunity.

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top reviewer

Like a grittier/grimier foreign language B&W 'Game of Thrones' surfacing from some sixties film-vault and w/the occasional bit where a lead character will bust out a makeshift saxophone and whale out a few bars. Haven't seen too many sci-fi films set in an alternate-universe's/world's dark-ages. Insanely violent and filthy and more fun than I was expecting!