Hard to Be a God (2013)
January 24, 2016 9:26 AM - Subscribe

A group of scientists is sent to the planet Arkanar to help the local civilization, which is in the Medieval phase of its own history, to find the right path to progress.

Hard to Be a God is a 2013 Russian science fiction film directed by Aleksei German, based on the novel Hard to Be a God by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

I watched this movie on Netflix recently because I saw it on a list titled something like "Top 10 unnoticed movies of 2015" and then seeing impressive reviews for it. I don't know what to say about it other than that it is bizarre and grotesque in an impressive way and I want to know what anyone else has to say about it. Also if you haven't seen it, there is a lot of puke and shit and snot and urinating penises, so uh, if you're not into that, you'd probably do best to avoid this movie. Sounds lovely, right?

posted by A Bad Catholic (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This has been getting a lot of praise and a friend of mine was quite taken by the book.
For me, this was one of the few movies I physically couldn't finish. I stopped after the first 1.5 hours, as the extreme close-ups in combination with the magnitute of subtitles had a sickening effect on me. (More so than the puke, shit and snot and such.) I got dizzy and headachy and decided to quit.

I've been thinking of maybe giving it another shot ever since, maybe on a smaller screen. Do you think it's worth it?
posted by bigendian at 12:13 PM on January 24, 2016

If the physical effect of the movie was what stopped you and not the actual content of the movie, then yeah, I'd say go ahead and give it another shot. Content-wise, I don't think the second half is any better.

Seeing all the praise it has gotten makes me wonder if maybe I'm just not a very smart person. Like, I don't mind movies where not much happens, but I just could not figure out what the hell was going on after the first thirty minutes. I went to Wikipedia afterwards to find the plot synopsis, and I could connect the synopsis to the images I saw, but at the same time, some of the things that the synopsis described didn't seem to be well conveyed by the movie. I'd really like someone who isn't a movie critic and actually enjoyed the movie to tell me what they liked about it.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 5:53 PM on January 24, 2016

Seeing all the praise it has gotten makes me wonder if maybe I'm just not a very smart person.

eh.. don't say that.
I don't know what movies you usually watch but I feel like you've jumped deep into (Russian) avant-garde cinema with this feature, maybe without prior experience. Also I think being more familiar with the work of Aleksei German might have helped both of us. It's certainly not the source material's "fault" this movie is somewhat inaccessible, as my friend layed out the book's plot perfectly understandable before me.

(As a sidenote: I've read the Strugatsky brothers' Roadside Picnic, which I can heavily recommend if you're into science fiction. Tarkowski's movie Stalker was loosely based on it. You could give this one a shot instead, if you want to stay in that general ballpark.)
posted by bigendian at 7:29 PM on January 24, 2016

I'll have to check it out, thanks for the recommendation. Maybe I'll check out Stalker too.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 5:11 PM on January 25, 2016

I haven't read the book, but found the movie a bit hard to follow in detail, though I certainly had the broad strokes. I think there were some translation shortcomings in the subtitles. It's also a long-ass movie.

I was pretty amused by my own physical discomfort at the muck on screen, though. I didn't actually want to shower after seeing the movie, but I sure did appreciate that a movie could put that feeling into me effectively.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:08 PM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

This was on the list for strange club here on Fanfare, and I was intrigued by it from the start. I watched it over the Xmas vacation and was surprised how much it held my interest despite being nearly 3 hours and with limited plot. I'm not sure I could put my finger on why it held my attention. I was quite impressed by the way he made such a complete world from the fairly limited sets, and the total commitment of the actors to stewing in it. The lead is particularly impressive.
posted by biffa at 10:52 AM on January 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

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