by Rebecca Burgan
On the planet Arkanar, identical to Earth but stuck 800 years behind, grey castles stand entrenched in a beastly sea of mud and oomska. Arkanar possesses a medieval civilization, but there is no Renaissance, only fog, squalor, and decay. Scientists arrive to help this culture of humans who have not evolved from an existence of baseness, sickness, and eternal rot.
Be sure to have a settled stomach before embarking on Hard to Be a God, the final masterpiece by visionary Russian director Aleksei German. The Strugatsky brothers, Arkady and Boris (authors of the source novel for Tarkovsky’s Stalker), originally requested that a director of Soviet origin, preferably Aleksei German, direct a version of their Russian science fiction novel, Hard to Be a God. After the brothers’ disappointment with Peter Fleishmann’s 1989 film adaptation, German took on filming beginning in 2000, though he had been planning it for decades, and nearly finished it before his death in 2013. German’s wife and son put the finishing touches on the film allowing it to finally be unleashed onto the world.
This is the most grotesquely filthy film you have probably ever seen—a veritable Bosch or Brughel nightmare come to life, chock full of relentless dripping, fecal mud baths, suffocating fog, blood, mud, rain, putrefying swamps of bodily fluids, demonic horns, monstrous faces, and more mud. A sensation of near panic washes over you, yet you can’t look away, not for the three long hours of brutal submersion.