The Film (4/5)
Hard to be a God when all is said and done will certainly go down as one of the most unique films I have seen this year, if not one of the best. The film is directed by Alexsey German, who sadly passed away before the film's completion. Of course, Hard to be a God was made over a period of 12 years, six of those years involved the shoot, while during the other 6 the film was in post. In that amount of time, lots of things are sure to happen.
The film is based on a novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, who wrote the novel that inspired Tarkovsky's Stalker. The film tells the story of a group of scientist who visit the planet Arkanar. Arkanar according to a reveal early in the film is currently in their middle ages and is about 800 years behind Earth in their evolutionary progression. Don Rumata is a scientist that has decided to live amongst the people of this planet, but with his knowledge, rumors abound that he is descended from a God. Even with that pedigree, and the power it gives him, he is not very lucky in his schemes to get ahead in this dark ages society.
Hard to be a God is a film that is less about the story, and more about the experience. The character we seem to follow primarily is Don Rumata, and toward the conclusion of the film elements of the plot begin to come together, but overall the film shows German creating a world, and allowing the viewer to dwell in it for 3+ hours. Arkanar, is not some lush sci-fi planet, it is filthy and disgusting. The characters are usually covered in mud, blood, and mucus, and almost every bit of landscape looks as dirty as the people who dwell there. Couple this with the stark black and white cinematography, and the extremely harsh violence in the film, and the viewer is left with a complex, and disturbing, but totally rewarding sci-fi experience.
Kino Lorber brings Hard to be a God to Blu-ray in a stunning 1080p AVC encoded transfer in it's original 1:85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer has excellent contrast and fine detail, and a nice grain structure present throughout.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA track in Russian which sounds fantastic, with dialogue, and score coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues with the audio.
Kino Lorber have put together a solid extras package for their Blu-ray of Hard to be a God. The extras included a 44 minute making of, the film's trailer, an introduction by the co-screenwriter of the film, and a booklet of essays and a statement by the late director.
If you are a fan of sci-fi, and are willing to step outside the box, than Hard to be a God on Blu-ray is a must. Rent it, Buy it, whatever, this films needs to be seen. The Blu-ray from Kino Lorber looks and sounds fantastic, and they have included a solid package of extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.