Hard to Be a God – Review (Spoiler Free)

This relentless journey through the slimiest, bloodiest and most vile of human societies may just be a modern masterpiece…

This is the last film from Russian filmmaker Alexei Yuryevich German; it haunted his mind for a large portion of his life and he spent his last fifteen years working on it before then dying in 2013. His son then took up the mantle to add the finishing touches to his father’s dream project. Throughout the film we are dumped in a place that strongly represents Medieval Europe at its most nightmarish. Every frame is crowded with a collected onslaught of death, shit and mud. Everyone here has a cold and sniffs and squelches their way around the town, hardly noticing the mud, excrement and vomit which makes up their streets and which occasionally drips on them from above. It’s a stomach churning place in which beauty and humanity is not easily found.

We are introduced to a man and told that he is treated as a God by the locals, earning their respect… or if not respect then their fear by his presence and his divine ancestry. This however is a sham, for this is an alien planet and he has arrived from Earth in order to observe and perhaps help facilitate their imminent renaissance. This plan never came to fruition though because instead of celebrating art and science this society decided to drown their intellectuals in their cesspits and cut the throats of all of those who begin to display any true sign of intellect or artistry. No longer charged with a mission this man simply began to exist in this place, blending in with the locals and  attempting to gain some small semblance of luxury in this hellish landscape. Stomach churningly tactile in its approach this insane portrait of another world is both deeply uncomfortable and inescapably compelling viewing.

This staggering portrait of a man who, despite having the perceived power of a god, is unable to change the world around him against the relentless tide of war, depravity and the collective base humanity which underpins us all. The question which haunts the film though is to what degree he still views this world through our eyes, and if indeed perhaps he has begun to enjoy his position in this bleak new world. Part political allegory, part dystopian fiction, part philosophical work… German’s last film isn’t easy to pin down, and neither should it be. It crafts a world that’s rank and repellent and yet which is also rich in humanity in all of its various shades and varieties. With its roving camera work which seeks to implicate its audience in the action, the sensory overload that its crowded frame hits us with and the complex portrayal of a life lived in hell there is simply too much to take in here with one viewing. An overwhelmed viewer is left to contemplate that indeed it’s hard to be a god, but it seems it is harder still to judge one.

 


Hard to be a God is out in the UK today! Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!

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10 comments

  1. Certainly looks interesting!

    1. Yeah it’s a little different to your average film!

  2. Truly envy the kinds of films you get to find and review James. Though this might be an odd film to make that comment on haha. Hard to be a God seems like quite a challenge to sit through, but damn it if i’m not curious.

    1. Thanks Tom, it’s really fun getting such a range of stuff sent to us. Only a day ago we were sent the restored news reels which would play in British cinemas during the war… very different to what we are used to!
      Yeah I recommend you giving it a go if and when you can, it is not an easy watch but it’s worth doing if you know what I mean.

      1. I’d love to be able to get into a position where I get sent films to watch and/or review. Any tips or ideas on how I can maybe have that happen? I know having a Twitter account must certainly help. And being in a city where film festivals occur. The former isn’t so much an issue for me as much as the latter is. I live in a small town in northern New Jersey at the moment. Going into the city (NYC) is more than a 2 hour drive one way.

        1. Location certainly helps but is far from essential as so many distribution companies will send out screeners both physical and digital. The key thing I found was starting out small, grow a presence on twitter and then see if you can score an interview with somebody who you follow, ask around and see who might be up for doing a small interview with you. Once you’ve done three or four then the process begins to snowball, that is when I was contacted by the first publicty company. After I had been working with them for ages I began contacting specific companies and seeing if I could do things with them. It’s all about gradually starting out, making contacts and then letting that slowly snowball!

        2. Just pinged an email to you which was somewhat inspired by this…

          1. Ok, great. I’ll take a look. Thanks James.

  3. abbiosbiston · · Reply

    Wow this sounds… disturbing.

    1. Haha it’s no easy watch!

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