If you’re a fan of Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Andrei Rublev’ and ‘Stalker’ and thought you’d never see their like again, don’t miss this monumental film from Tarkovsky’s Soviet-era colleague Aleksei German. Adapted from a novel by the Strugatsky brothers (who also provided the source material for ‘Stalker’), on the face of it this is a sci-fi epic about an earthling observer on the planet Arkanar, a brutish pre-Renaissance parallel world.
Director German worked for 12 years on his staggering final film, leaving his family to complete it after his death in 2013. The result is surely the most oppressively shit-splattered, mud-logged depiction of medieval life ever put on screen. Narrative-wise, it’s pretty thin considering the nearly-three-hour running time.
But it’s the infernal environment that is actually the story here, asking how the light of human compassion can still flicker in the darkest surroundings. ‘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.