The late Alexei German’s barbaric and nauseating Hard to be a God immerses the viewer in an alternative medieval Earth, where its inhabitants are left to suffer in a vile and disease-ridden pre-Renaissance wasteland.
Forget about narrative, it doesn’t exist. For more than 170 minutes (most of them painfully without purpose), the camera tightly constricts audiences into a state of forced claustrophobia. It spirals and weaves like a documentarian around Don Rumata (Leonid Yarmolnik), an Earthly visitor whom the local people believe to be a god.
The film has famously been in production since 2000 and the overlong and inconsistent creative process is made painfully clear. Most of the ‘performers’ appear to react impulsively and ridiculously to the camera in front of them. Every shot/scene feels woefully repetitive and improvised, with a complete lack of direction or objective.
I simply cannot recommend a film whose intentions are purely to drown its audience in medieval filth. Mud, spit, faeces, bodily fluids and blood infect and fester in every single frame. It’s utterly sickening, not enthralling.
While there is a uniqueness to the way German’s film is captured, and I must credit how the film’s mise-en-scene is meticulously crafted and shaped, it does nothing to develop characters or plot. You must have one or the other.
The film is yet another endurance test of bestial and obtuse art-house tropes that are alienating and limited to only the most open-minded and forgiving festival goer. I am clearly not one of them. All I wanted was for the film to end and to get a shower afterwards.
THE VERDICT: 1.5/5
Directed by: Aleksei German
Running time: 177 minutes