Hard to Be a God (2013 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hard to Be a God
Hard to Be a God (2013 film) POSTER.jpg
Film poster
Directed byAleksei German
Written byAleksei German
Svetlana Karmalita
Based onHard to Be a God
by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
StarringLeonid Yarmolnik
CinematographyVladimir Ilyin
Yuri Klimenko
Edited byMaria Amosova
Music byViktor Lebedev
Lenfilm Studio
Sever Studio
Telekanal Rossiya
Release dates
  • 13 November 2013 (2013-11-13) (Rome)
  • 27 February 2014 (2014-02-27) (Russia)
Running time
177 minutes
Czech Republic
BudgetUSD$7 million
Box office$35,919[1]

Hard to Be a God (Russian: Трудно быть богом, romanizedTrudno byt' bogom) is a 2013 Russian epic medieval science fiction film[2] directed by Aleksei German who co-wrote the screenplay with Svetlana Karmalita. It was his last film and it is based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

A team of scientists travel to the planet Arkanar that is culturally and technologically centuries behind — progress is stuck way back in the Middle Ages. Anybody the inhabitants of the planet consider an intellectual is instantly executed. The scientists are ordered to not interfere and work undercover, but one of them, Rumata, wishes to stop the senseless murders of brilliant minds and is forced to at last pick a side.


The entirety of the film takes place on another planet, in the city of Arkanar, in a society that closely resembles the Middle Ages on Earth. History here has gone its own way: no Renaissance has occurred, the little glimpses of science and culture that exist are suppressed and killed off under the influence of a proto-fascist police state; dirt and dullness is everywhere. Around thirty Earthling scientists are sent to the planet incognito, in order to observe the outcome of this society. However, they are barred from influencing the local civilization or interfering with the city's natural course. One of the Earthlings has been living on the planet for twenty years, in a large house filled with his multitudes of slaves and servants. Disguised as a Noble Don named Rumata of Estor, he has become known among some of the townspeople as the son of Goran (a local pagan god). In duels, Rumata does not kill enemies, but only cuts off their ears, as it is forbidden for him to kill. At night, he dreams of murder. He is tasked with saving the intellectuals of this society - bookworms and wisemen, who are constantly persecuted by the so-called Gray troops under the leadership of Don Reba, who has usurped power in the state.

From Muga, his head slave, Rumata learns of a certain tobacco-grower from Tobacco Street who is supposedly one of the clever inhabitants of Arkanar. On rocky islets among the swamps that surround the city, Rumata hides Arkanarian scientists to safety. From time to time, other Earthlings also gather in these swamps, more and more alienated from each other, and constantly drunk (as is Rumata). A doctor named Budakh, who was supposed to be taken to shelter, had disappeared along with his escort. Wanting to find out about his fate, Rumata gets an appointment with the king and Don Reba, but fails. In the saloons, Rumata meets his friend Pampa, a washed-up local baron. After a drunken night, Rumata is suddenly arrested in the palace by Grays and taken to Don Reba for interrogation. Reba informs him that he has become the Master of the Order, a militant religious sect from across the country, and tries to find out if Rumata really is a God or not. Rumata manages to convince Reba of his divine powers, and he is released after being given a bunch of security clearance bracelets.

The black monks of the Order invade the city, seizing power in Arkanar during the night. The king and his family had been killed, and the courtiers are executed publicly. In the morning, Rumata goes to the torture chambers of the Tower of Joy and rescues Budakh and Baron Pampa, the latter of whom happened to end up there. Pampa, trying to escape from the city, is killed by being shot from arrows. Afterwards, Rumata talks with Budakh, trying to figure out what the scientist would advise God on how to fix the state of affairs in the world of Arkanar. Budakh's answer does not satisfy the Earthling: the weak will replace the strong, but this will not stop the struggle for power. Rumata and Budakh return home. Rumata's castle had survived an attack during the night, leading to two servants being killed, including Uno, a young troublemaker Rumata's favorite. Defeated and tired, Rumata meets Arata the Hunchback, a feared revolutionary figure who tries to convince him to lead the slave uprising with his Earthly technology. However, Rumata refuses - time will pass, exploitation and slavery will happen again in a cycle. Having given Arata a protective bracelet of the Order, Rumata orders the servants to drive him away with sticks. The next day, Ari, Rumata's lover here on Arkanar, is killed by a crossbow arrow shot through the back of her head. Later, soldiers of the Order burst into Rumata's house in search of heretics, guided by a certain crippled monk, in whose description it is easy to guess Arata. Furious at the murder of Ari, Rumata informs their leader, a former university student named Arima, that he will kill them all and soon turns his threat into reality. He kills Arima first. After disemboweling Arima's body, revealing his still-beating heart, Rumata sets off for the city.

A group of Earthlings, including the elder Don Condor, make their way through the ruins of Arkanar. They discover mountains of corpses, including the ones of Arata and Don Reba. From the conversation amongst the earthlings, it becomes clear that Ari died from the arrow of Arata, who wanted to set Rumata off on the monks of the Order. Finally, Don Condor and Pashka discover Rumata himself, sitting alone in a puddle in the same pajamas. He refuses the offer to return to Earth. “God, he can get tired too,” he says to Condor. Don Condor silently accepts Rumata's decision. Finally, Rumata notes the historical sequence: "Where the grays triumph, the blacks always come to power!" and advises Don Condor what to write in the report on his actions: "Tell him that it is difficult to be a god." With this Don Condor and Pashka leave. Exhausted, Rumata gradually falls asleep.

During the winter, two of the bookworms hiding in the swamps quarreled and killed each other. Rumata plays the saxophone, and the procession of horsemen, including his slaves, slowly leaves into the snowy distance.


  • Leonid Yarmolnik – Don Rumata
  • Dmitri Vladimirov
  • Laura Pitskhelauri
  • Aleksandr Ilyin – Arata
  • Yuri Tsurilo – Don Pampa
  • Yevgeni Gerchakov – Budakh
  • Aleksandr Chutko – Don Reba
  • Oleg Botin – Bucher
  • Pyotr Merkuryev


Filming began in the autumn of 2000 in the Czech Republic and continued off-and-on for a period of several years, ending in August 2006 at the Lenfilm studios in Saint Petersburg, Russia. During the lengthy editing and post-production stage,[3] German passed away before the film could be completed. Production was concluded by members of his family.[4] The film was premiered at the 2013 Rome Film Festival (out of competition).

The film was reported to have been renamed to The History of the Arkanar Massacre (Russian: История арканарской резни).[5] The press has also mentioned the alternative title The Carnage in Arkanare,[6] and a film script published under the title "What said the tobacconist from Tobacco Street".

Later, the title was reverted to Hard to Be a God.[7]


Critical response[edit]

Reception in the Russian media was mixed.[8] However, Hard to Be a God received universal acclaim from English-language critics. Review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes reports that 95% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 43 reviews with an average rating of 9.03/10. The site's consensus reads: "A sci-fi epic with palpable connections to the present, Hard to Be a God caps director Aleksei German's brilliant filmography with a final masterpiece".[9] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, reports the film has a score of 90 based on 13 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[10]

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian newspaper gave it five stars out of five, calling it: "awe-inspiring in its own monumentally mad way" and "beautiful, brilliant and bizarre".[11] Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club likened it to Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, naming German as "probably the most important Russian filmmaker to remain more or less completely unknown in the United States." He praised the "grotesque and deranged" medieval sci-fi film as "first and foremost a vision of human misery, brutality, and ignorance."[12]

The location manager and sometimes film blogger Shane Scott-Travis included the film in his list "25 most beautiful films of the 21st century" (ranking it the 17th) in the website of film bloggers Taste of Cinema.[13]

Best lists[edit]

Hard to Be a God was listed by numerous critics' and publications' as one of the top films of 2015.

Hard to Be a God has also been considered one of the top films of the 2010s.

They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? determines Hard to Be a God as the 228th-most critically-acclaimed film of the 21st century.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Trudno byt bogom (2015)". The Numbers. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Close-Up on "Hard to Be a God" and the Medieval in European Cinema". MUBI. Retrieved 2022-06-29.
  3. ^ Bykov, Dmitry (2008-03-03). Надежда для Арканара. Ogoniok (in Russian). №10 (5037). Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2010-01-17.
  4. ^ AntBit (2014-10-11). "Hard To Be A God (2013)". Projected Figures. Retrieved 2022-01-21.
  5. ^ "После первого просмотра".
  6. ^ Saveliyev, Dmitry (2008-03-28). Быть или не быть богом. Vedomosti (in Russian). №56 (2078). Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  7. ^ "Rome Film Festival - Out of Competition". Archived from the original on 2013-10-14. Retrieved 2013-11-11.
  8. ^ "Рецензии на фильм Трудно быть богом (2014), отзывы". Критиканство.
  9. ^ "Hard to Be a God". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Hard to Be a God". Metacritic. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Hard to Be a God review – mud, blood and holy hell". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  12. ^ "Hard To Be A God will take you to a world of shit". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2016-01-02.
  13. ^ Scott-Travis, Shane. "The 25 Most Beautiful Movies of The 21st Century".

Further reading[edit]

  • German, Aleksei; Svetlana Karmalita (2006). "Что сказал табачник с Табачной улицы" и другие киносценарии (in Russian). St. Peterburg: Amfora; Seans. p. 720. ISBN 5-367-00232-3.

External links[edit]