Hard to Be a God

A group of scientists is sent to the planet Arkanar to help the local civilization, which is in the Medieval phase of its own history, to find the right path to progress. Their task is a difficult one: they cannot interfere violently and in no case can they kill. The scientist Rumata tries to save the local intellectuals from their punishment and cannot avoid taking a position. As if the question were: what would you do in God's place? Director's statement Aleksei wanted to make this film his entire life. The road was a long one. This is not a film about cruelty, but about love. A love that was there, tangible, alive, and that resisted through the hardest of conditions.


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  • ★★★★★ review by Rakestraw on Letterboxd

    If you're ready for 3 hours of floundering in filth, staggerstumbling through the muck and mire shitscape that is Akanar, swathed in an incomprehensible steamfog, perpetually rolling through the frame, enveloping everyone and everything...Medieval times as alien...future as past...cyclical oppression and barbarinism shot through documentarian-observer style with reportage style camerawork showcasing cultural and academic destitution where the townfolk administer ladlefulls of a lacquerlike substance over an endless array of noosehung bodies transforming the swaying corpses into public ornaments sparkling in the sunlit human decay like a public display of the knick-knack trinkets culled from endless days of slaughtering artists and academias then German's Hard to Be a God is your ticket to cinematic paradise.

    This is cinematic world-building at its finest; never has the bar been raised so unattainably high. It's sci-fi as past, present and future all at once set within the brutality of the 13th century, all captured immaculately by cinematographers Vladimir Ilin and Yuri Klimenko who employ reportage-style camerawork littered with elaborate long takes with lyrical movements, occasionally stopping for moments of static reflection; add to the masterwork cinematography, superlative costume and production design and Hard to Be a God presents itself as one of the greatest films in the history of cinema.

    This is top-tier film-making.

    Hard to Be a God turned out to be Alesei Yuryevich German's sixth and final film, marking the end of an unprolific career wherein German directed six films in 45 years with this film in particular taking around 12 years (6 years of filming) to finish, which was undertaken by German's wife and co-writer Svetlana Karmalita

    and his son Aleksei German Jr. A film adaptation of the sci-fi novel by the same name written by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, probably best known for writing the novel Roadside Picnic as well as the screenplay for Tarkovsky's Stalker.

    The film involves a group of scientists from the future Earth on a mission on the alien planet of Arkanar which is currently in the Medieval phase, seemingly missing the boat on that whole Renaissance part; well not really missing out on it, but more so strangling and murdering it into the ground by snuffing out any

    and all scholarly endeavors. HARD TO BE A GOD centers on one of these Earthling scientists, by the name of Don Rumata, tasked with observing the daily occurrences of the planet which mostly consist of brutality without the ability to interfere violently...essentially taking God's place.

    Don Rumata spends his time trying to save the local intellectuals from the gallows and shitpits as well as meeting with the other Earth-born scientists, but his main goal is to find a doctor by the name of Budakh and protect him, however, Rumata slowly becomes distraught over the unceasing suffering of the citizens and

    their miserable state of life resulting in a bloodbath started errant arrow and a bull horn helmet stabbing, ending with dead bodies strewn throughout the village, entrails almost everywhere one looks, marinating in the mud, piss and shit.

  • ★★★★★ review by Jake Cole on Letterboxd

    Not since THE TAKING OF POWER BY LOUIS XIV has the sheer stench of a pre-indoor-plumbing world emanated from a film as it does in HARD TO BE A GOD. Confounding (I would not hazard a plot summary even using a synopsis of the book it's based on for reference without at least another viewing) but tactile, German's final film is one that relentlessly looks at the world without sentiment, as a place slick with blood and shit. And rather than claim God does not exist or is a negligent son of a bitch, the film takes a measure of pity on Him, asking what short of total cleansing fire a deity could be expected to do to fix a world ruined by His best and worst creation? I've only seen one other Aleksei German film, the similarly inscrutable/incredible MY FRIEND IVAN LAPSHIN, but even so, I cannot imagine HARD TO BE A GOD marks a man going out on anything less than his fullest powers.

  • ★★★★½ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd


    Been obsessed with the tangible, filthy, disgusting environment that Hard to Be a God embodies ever since I first watched it. At that time, I hated the film for its lack of supposed progression while it continuously delved into similar situations over and over, but since a rewatch a few months ago shifted my perspective, I've been coming back again and again to witness this strange beauty; a remarkable sensory journey so severe and vomit-inducing that it deserves its own 4D ride.

  • ★★★★★ review by Jay Cheel on Letterboxd

    Now that we've recorded the show, I can reveal that Hard to Be a God has had the distinct honour of receiving my second -- and final -- 6/5 of 2015.

  • ★★★★½ review by Peter Labuza on Letterboxd

    Still kind of shocked this is getting any sort of release at all, which from what I've heard under the radar is more of the fault of its producers than a lack of interest from various parties. Here's my review from Cannes to help convince you to go see it.

    I've recently read the book it's based on, which is kind of like the Soviet Communist version of Dumas's The Three Musketeers. German was obviously going to make a loose adaptation, but I'm glad it mostly excised the silly characterizations for something more direct and tangible. Anyways, if you tell me where any of the crew of this movie was possibly standing at any moment, please do, because the effect of a 360 degree reality here is astonishing.

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