|Andrew reviews the final film of Russian director Aleksei German, Hard to Be a God.|
|Welcome to Hell|
The second of two adaptations of the novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (authors of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker), German has fashioned a medieval Hellscape dripping with mud, urine, phlegm, feces and rotting flesh suffocating its characters and every ounce of the frame. A loose science fiction/period drama hybrid about a scientist from Earth who travels to the planet Arkada which is in the throes of its own Middle Ages, the film is a first person point-of-view three-hour wallow in scatological suffering, shackles and wetlands which bubble and croak with every step made. With a production lasting over six years followed by an additional four of post-production, Hard to Be a God is as grueling of a watch as it must have been to make. Even as characters break the fourth wall and address the camera directly when they aren't bumping their shit and sweat covered bodies against it, never once to you feel free of the grip of the film's sensory overload which seeks to bury or drown you in its foul atmosphere.
German's final film took a really very long time to make, almost too long. Production began in the year 2000 and principal photography wrapped around 2006 followed by four more years of editing and sound mixing before the director's untimely death left his widow and son an unfinished work to contend with. During this period, German was in poor health and frequently hospitalized, further delaying his endless magnum opus from completion. Anytime an artist's extinguished torch is reignited and carried on by friends and family, there's an unspoken question about the validity of the final product. In other words, just how close to the director's vision is the finished film considering he wasn't alive to see it through to the end? Going into German's film knowing full well his widow and son brought closure to the piece, I couldn't help but fear another Battle Royale II with it's overt shifts between master filmmaker Kinji Fukusaku's skills and his son's ineptitude. In the case of Hard to Be a God however, as you watch it play out in motion, so much is happening onscreen at once with such acute attention to detail including the costumes, sets and in particular the sound design, it's absolutely overwhelming.
|That had better not be feces|
I just stepped in....oh yeah....it is.
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