Monday, 13 October 2014


Aleksei German explores the redeeming power of art in a portrait of overwhelming depravity, a depiction of a world devoid of the conscious creation of art. The god in his film is a resigned, despondent, wry one, sent to save us (or the Arkanarians) from ourselves, as we exist in perpetual recycling, consuming what we excrete. In this world, on this planet of absolute vulgarity and profanity, German manifests the outrageous disgust from within itself, allowing it to exist on its own terms, passing no judgement, succumbing to what artistry he can draw out of it. And the absolution of his vision, the immense power of this sensory symphony, its unyielding parade of effluvia, the cumulative effect suggests the essence of life, so pure, deprived of the decency and hygiene that we have since become devoted to. German relishes the physical, lingering on spaces and materials, shunning traditional narrative tools such as identifiable details in plot, character and emotion, though his film is by no means empty, not at any point in its runtime, which pushes the three-hour mark. Visually, sonically, and intellectually, Hard to Be a God is enormously dense; in the immediate moment, it bears a bracing, fascinating power. In the long run, it is designed to reward repeat viewings and as many theories and interpretations as can be derived from this magnum opus of depraved intelligence. That's perhaps what's most impressive about Hard to Be a God - how German so effortlessly (at least in appearances; the film actually took several years to produce) translates primal, base material into material that primarily functions on an intellectual basis. The film is as potent and as pertinent an argument in favour of absurdity and abstraction in art as any you're likely to encounter. It justifies its own existence not in elevating its content, but in degrading it to the very lowest of the low.