DVD Movie Review | Hard to be a God (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Sam Edwards 18.09.2015 1

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Hard to be a God (UK Rating: 15)

Welcome to the future, a future where people live in poverty and are perpetually stuck in the middle ages. Hard to be a God is an arthouse film directed by Aleksei German that covers what some may consider a "What if?" scenario. Those familiar with medieval pictures will appreciate what has been set forth by the director, hitting a landmark in modern cinema. Twelve long years, between directing and post-production, have separated the audience from this release. Finally available on 14th September from Arrow Films on Blu-ray and DVD, this should certainly be an event for many audiences, but can it live up to expectations?

Hard to be a God is set in the distant future on a planet that is very similar to Earth, but isn't Earth, and apparently everyone speaks Russian. The main character, Anton, also known as Don Rumata (played by Gali Abaydulov), is a scientist from Earth sent to this planet. His goal: to help progress their society into a more modern culture without directly interfering with their advancement. The only problem with his mission is that the inhabitants of this planet murder those they consider to be an intellectual, thus, halting any sort of renaissance. Hated by some and considered a god by others, Don Rumata's quest must be fulfilled to help these people progress.

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Ultimately, this art house cinematic experience is boring, even if the plot is something noteworthy. Filled with extended shots of random happenings, such as faecal matter being thrown in somebody's face or people hanging, it feels as if progression is non-existent, like the movie is trying to be a Kubrick piece. The plot gets muddled out by the random use of these long shots, as well, to the point where the viewer has to rely on the occasional reflection by Don Rumata to comprehend what is fully happening. Length is a major issue the spectacle also suffers from. Running at almost three hours, it just drags on and most will be thrown off - coffee and/or tea will be needed to keep the eyes open for the duration of this feature.

Despite the few negatives, there are quite a few positives to the spectacle at hand. Acting is excellent; the captivating performances of the actors really capture those ignorant to the future and to advancement in culture, with some of the strongest coming from Abaydulov as a man on a mission attempting to blend into this society. Set pieces are very reminiscent of an authentic medieval village/town, as well, with plenty of magnificent structures and barren wastelands, really teleporting those watching into the dark ages. Shots, despite being lengthy, are very gripping and well done. There are times that they are so magnificently done that the audience will just be blown away. Another noteworthy aspect is that this motion picture is shot entirely in black and white. While some may question the motives behind it, others will agree that it sets the mood. A relatively great plot, muddled by the lengthy shots and slow progression (as mentioned prior), is very thought-worthy and will leave people questioning whether or not this is how society would be if the renaissance had never happened - if humanity had never progressed past the dark ages.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Overall, Hard to be a God will only appease the hardcore cinephiles and/or fans of the novel.  Those who wish to view this cinematic experience should definitely consider a high caffeine intake; at times it definitely feels as if the plot isn't moving forward at all. Shot well, acted well, with a fairly great story, it definitely is a worthwhile motion picture, even if at times progression feels non-existent. A home video release is exactly what was needed because multiple viewings of this feature will be needed to fully grasp the narrative set forth and to comprehend the meaning. However, watching it play out on the big screen would have been a pleasure because of how wonderfully shot the film is.

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good review

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