Clive Barker, the noted Horror novelist, once wrote:
Nothing ever begins. There is no first moment; no single word or place from which this or any other story springs... And this story, having no beginning, will have no end!
That quote is from his 1987 novel WEAVEWORLD. The reason I start this review with it, is because it is extremely apt to the film, I am about to review. Aleksei German's three-hour, Medieval sci-fi opus HARD TO BE A GOD (2014) is currently out at cinemas and on DVD/Blu-Ray, and is being touted as a masterpiece of modern cinema. On the UK DVD cover, is a quote, that says:
Possibly the greatest film since the millennium began.
I can assure my readers, that nothing could be further from the truth. HARD TO BE A GOD, is an adaptation of a classic piece of Russian sci-fi literature, by noted authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, from 1964.
It is supposedly about a group of scientists who flee Earth, and end-up on a planet that represents the Renaissance age, and is permanently stuck in the Middle Ages. There, one of the scientists, tries to infiltrate the local populace, under the name of Don Rumata, a rich nobleman.Some films you watch. Some you savour. Some you live through, and others you suffer or endure. This is the latter. What follows, is nearly three hours of unnamed characters entering and exiting the screen, eating, jeering, crying, slapping, yawning, screaming, vomiting, winking, grinning, grumbling, sneezing, smoking, shouting, leering, coughing, defecating, whining, whinging, gurning, grimacing and urinating, with no purpose or point whatsoever! Three solid hours! And it's all done, from a first-person perspective, so the film makes you feel like it is you that is being jeered, yawned, spat, winked, shat, and grimaced at! Lovely! Oh, but it is in black-and-white, so that must really make things seem better... No, it absolutely does not!
This is not a science-fiction film, in even the remotest of broadest sense of the term! Not by a long-shot! At best, it's a Medieval fantasy, but it has less in common with the TV fantasy epic GAME OF THRONES (2011 onwards) which it has been likened too, than it does MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam), and even that comparison is unfair to the Monty Python gang.
Imagine, if you will, if Ed Wood, Terry Gilliam, Lars Von Trier and Stanley Kubrick all donated sperm. This film, is the bastard offspring that they would have produced! It's the kind of film that gives World Cinema a very bad name. You know how people who like mainstream, Hollywood Cinema often say "If I wanted to read something, I'd read a book", in relation to subtitled films, then these same people would have their every fear confirmed with this utter train-wreck of a film. It's some of the most self-indulgent bullshit every committed to celluloid.
Last year, there was a Turkish film called WINTER SLEEP by Nuri Bilge Ceylon. That too, was an epic diatribe of nothingness. In that case, the film's 197 minute run-time had just one highlight: a short scene in which a child throws a stone at a truck window, and the window then shatters, bringing the truck to a grinding halt. And that scene, is the most excitement Mr Ceylon dares to include. Bilge by name, bilge by nature!
HARD TO BE A GOD is no better. Characters aren't introduced or named, and even on the odd occasion that they are, we don't know how they relate to one another. The dialogue doesn't help viewers either. It's a mishmash of pseudo, cod-Shakespeare, with the worst in mistranslated Russian. Nothing makes any sense. Much of the dialogue, isn't even full sentences. The acting is awful too. Imagine if Marcel Marceau had infiltrated a Troma film, attempting to put-on a Tolstoy play in Serbo-Croat. This might have been the culmination of many years of their work. The fact that the director, Aleksei German died, and his son, Aleksei German Jnr had to take over says much. Filming started in 2000, and continued for over six years. The rest of the time since then, the film has been in post-production! That should tell you something. Someone died making this piece of grotesque ineptness!
Ironically, the BBFC rated this film an 18. Yes, the film does contain some graphic content, but it's not that shocking, and some people have claimed that you need to be really intelligent to "get" this film, and to truly grasp what it's talking to the viewer about. I say "No". What you need to be is really stupid to think that this rambling mess warrants being labelled a film, and that this should warrant three hours of your life to devoted to it.
In many ways, the film is a three-hour snoozefest that meanders along to its own drumbeat: a drumbeat produced by a baby cluelessly bashing-away on a triangle, completely oblivious to everyone else's musical talents. The word "wretched" doesn't come close to how angry this pile of dung actually is!
I am so glad that I didn't pay much to rent this film. If I'd have seen this at my local arthouse cinema, I'd have been demanding my money back. Even within the first 20 minutes, it's clear to the viewer that the director(s) really don't know what they are trying to do, what the film is meant to be about, and who they are aiming it at. You do have to have seen it, to experience just how rotten this film is! Nothing will prepare you for how bewildering this film is! In fact, I'm almost tempted to urge you all to rent it, just to see for yourselves, but I don't feel that would be fair. And I certainly don't won't the film-studios who financed, produced and released this work, to get any more money for it!
Simply put: you owe it to yourself to avoid this film at all costs. Do NOT be tempted to try it out, even as a bit of a joke. If anyone recommends this film to you, that person clearly has no taste in cinema! Diabolically poor in every sense!