Rakestraw’s review published on Letterboxd:
If you're ready for 3 hours of floundering in filth, staggerstumbling through the muck and mire shitscape that is Akanar, swathed in an incomprehensible steamfog, perpetually rolling through the frame, enveloping everyone and everything...Medieval times as alien...future as past...cyclical oppression and barbarinism shot through documentarian-observer style with reportage style camerawork showcasing cultural and academic destitution where the townfolk administer ladlefulls of a lacquerlike substance over an endless array of noosehung bodies transforming the swaying corpses into public ornaments sparkling in the sunlit human decay like a public display of the knick-knack trinkets culled from endless days of slaughtering artists and academias then German's Hard to Be a God is your ticket to cinematic paradise.
This is cinematic world-building at its finest; never has the bar been raised so unattainably high. It's sci-fi as past, present and future all at once set within the brutality of the 13th century, all captured immaculately by cinematographers Vladimir Ilin and Yuri Klimenko who employ reportage-style camerawork littered with elaborate long takes with lyrical movements, occasionally stopping for moments of static reflection; add to the masterwork cinematography, superlative costume and production design and Hard to Be a God presents itself as one of the greatest films in the history of cinema.
This is top-tier film-making.
Hard to Be a God turned out to be Alesei Yuryevich German's sixth and final film, marking the end of an unprolific career wherein German directed six films in 45 years with this film in particular taking around 12 years (6 years of filming) to finish, which was undertaken by German's wife and co-writer Svetlana Karmalita
and his son Aleksei German Jr. A film adaptation of the sci-fi novel by the same name written by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, probably best known for writing the novel Roadside Picnic as well as the screenplay for Tarkovsky's Stalker.
The film involves a group of scientists from the future Earth on a mission on the alien planet of Arkanar which is currently in the Medieval phase, seemingly missing the boat on that whole Renaissance part; well not really missing out on it, but more so strangling and murdering it into the ground by snuffing out any
and all scholarly endeavors. HARD TO BE A GOD centers on one of these Earthling scientists, by the name of Don Rumata, tasked with observing the daily occurrences of the planet which mostly consist of brutality without the ability to interfere violently...essentially taking God's place.
Don Rumata spends his time trying to save the local intellectuals from the gallows and shitpits as well as meeting with the other Earth-born scientists, but his main goal is to find a doctor by the name of Budakh and protect him, however, Rumata slowly becomes distraught over the unceasing suffering of the citizens and
their miserable state of life resulting in a bloodbath started errant arrow and a bull horn helmet stabbing, ending with dead bodies strewn throughout the village, entrails almost everywhere one looks, marinating in the mud, piss and shit.