Aleksei German's final film is choreographed with a Felliniesque social grandeur, but tethered to a neorealist's eye for detail and quotidian matters of social justice.
Stream Hard to Be a God
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
While there are implicit references to the horrors of the Soviet and post-Soviet state and to the 20th century in general, this monstrously overflowing film seems to aim even higher.
A fantastical examination of man’s inhumanity to man, and as replete as it is with persistent visceral disgust, it also pulses with intelligence, a mordant compassion, and yes, incredible wit.
It is grotesque and deranged and Hieronymus Bosch-like, and damn if it isn’t a bona fide vision — but of what, exactly?
In essence it’s an historical artifact created in a time capsule: impressive in its way, yet its retardataire mannerisms require more distance before judgment can be passed on whether it’s a major work engaged in earlier forms, or an intriguing footnote trapped in a spent modality.
Textually, the setting's brutalist conflation between the far future and the distant past makes the film timeless, an elusive fable told with the viscous immediacy of a life on the diseased edge of civilization.
Mr. German was just as stubborn in sticking to his personal vision (and revisions) as he was innovative in his storytelling, and he’s left behind a final opus that is hard to shake.
The vividly realized squalor, cruelty, and ugliness engulf everything, including the narrative.
The late director Aleksei Guerman’s last film is a grandly arbitrary carnival of neo-medieval depravity. It’s also a mudpunk allegory of Russian barbarism and backwardness.
Hard to Be a God is an endurance test for its protagonist and audience, yet the reward is an unforgettable cinematic experience and a timely insight into the need to remain human in a world of carnage.