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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Hard to be a God aka "Trudno byt bogom" [Blu-ray]

 

(Aleksey German, 2013)

 

Also available on Blu-ray in the US:

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Sever Studio

Video: Arrow Academy

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:57:20.838

Disc Size: 48,296,345,371 bytes

Feature Size: 42,255,705,024 bytes

Video Bitrate: 28.00 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 14th, 2015

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Russian 2095 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2095 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

Introduction by co-screenwriter Svetlana Karmalita (15:22)

Exclusive interview with Aleksei German Jr, who completed his father s film after his death (10:01)
The History of the Arkanar Massacre, an appreciation of the film by Daniel Bird (28:26)
The Unknown Genius: Michael Brooke looks at Aleksei German s creatively dazzling but politically hobbled career (34:00)
Imagery gallery (Actors, Film Stills, Production Stills)
Trailer (1:56)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Andrzej Klimowski

44-page liner notes booklet with photos, an essay by Jonathan Romney and interview with Aleksei German

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: A group of scientists visits the distant planet Arkanar, and discovers a society still trapped in its own medieval era. Unable to interfere with the course of its history, they can only watch in mounting horror as all sparks of intelligent and independent thought are mercilessly snuffed out by Arkanar s cruel rulers. Will they remain enmired in their squalid existence for ever, or can the visitors subtly nudge the more open-minded in the right direction? Truly, it s hard to be a god.

Legendary Russian sci-fi authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (whose Roadside Picnic was filmed as Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky) wrote the source novel, and adapting it was director Aleksei German s dream project for decades. It would take six years of shooting, a further six of post-production and a posthumous premiere before his masterpiece was finally unveiled.

But masterpiece it is: a visually astonishing, almost tactile recreation of an unnervingly recognisable alternative universe, drenched in blood, mud and the tears of the oppressed.

 

 

The Film:

Every year it's a delicate game of pick-and-choose when the International Film Festival Rotterdam reveals its roster. With almost 400 titles to choose from, all you can see is bound to be a small sample. But when I spotted Alexei German's Hard To Be A God (Trudno Byt' Bogom), my interest piqued: a three hour long Russian science fiction film, twelve years in the making, six of which were for the actual shooting?

On top of that, the film is an adaptation of a book by the Strugatski brothers, on whose work Tarkovsky's
Stalker was based. Reviews from the Rome Festival proclaimed the film to be incomprehensible yet gorgeous, so I went to see it with a healthy mix of anticipation and apprehension...

Excerpt from Twitch located HERE

 

Aleksei German's adaptation of the Strugatsky Brothers' 1964 novel is to put it mildly a labor of love: six years actual shooting (from 2000 to 2006), another six of post-production, with German himself dying in 2013 (the film was completed under the supervision of his wife and son); more, it's possible he'd been thinking of adapting the book through the length of his long if sparse career (five feature films, from 1967 onwards)--perhaps longer (shortly after the book's publication, if you believe some folks).

Critic Olaf Moller gives a detailed account of the film's painful genesis, not to mention some of the context against which the film was made (including a 1990 film directed by Peter Fleischmann). A massive effort, comparable perhaps to long development period of projects like Welles' 1966 Chimes at Midnight (first staged on Broadway as Five Kings in 1939) or Isao Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya (eight years in the making, according to Japan Times critic Mark Schilling--and also (considering his advanced age) possibly Takahata's final feature.)

Excerpt from Critic After Dark located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Hard to be a God gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.  It's dual-layered with a high bitrate for the 3 hour feature. The film has a very fluid camera never really staying static for more than a second or two. The contrast and texture look quite adept. The 1080P supports some minor depth in the 1.66:1 frame.  It's pristinely clean showcasing some hi-def detail in a few close-ups but we are at the mercy of the roaming camera. This Blu-ray looks super in-motion.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Arrow utilize a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at 2095 kbps in the original Russian language. There are effects in the film and the depth of the audio transfer sounds impressive. The score is by Viktor Lebedev and further enhances the film's mud-drenched atmosphere. A classical selection may have been a good idea. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'FREE - playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

Arrow add some great extras starting with a split-screen introduction by co-screenwriter Svetlana Karmalita running about 1/4 of an hour - in Russian with English subtitles. There is also, a kind of odd, 10-minute interview with Aleksei German Jr., who completed his father's film after his death. What I enjoyed were the next two video efforts (also produced by Arrow) - the first, The History of the Arkanar Massacre is a 1/2 hour appreciation of the film by Daniel Bird filling in many questions I had about the production. The second was also very illuminating - The Unknown Genius is 34-minutes with Michael Brooke looking at Aleksei German's creatively dazzling but politically hobbled career. Totally fascinating. There is also an extensive Stills gallery - divided into sub-sections with specific individuals in Actor photos, Film Stills or Production Stills. Lastly is a trailer and the package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Andrzej Klimowski and contains a 44-page liner notes booklet with photos, an essay by Jonathan Romney and interview with Aleksei German.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Wow. It's hard to put into words the impact of this Russian epic. The history of Hard to be a God may be more intriguing than the lengthy film. Although it does evoke Tarkovsky and I couldn't help think of Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men at times.  The Arrow Blu-ray provides a solid presentation of this awe-inspiring film and they tack on valuable supplements. I would say this is definitely worth seeing - if nothing more than to satisfy your curiosity and learn even more about this enigmatic filmmaker. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

September 10th, 2015

Also available on Blu-ray in the US:


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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