Faces of Don Rumata (Hard to Be a God)

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Hard to Be a God (2013). Directed by Aleksey German. Cinematography by Vladimir Ilin and Yuriy Klimenk.

6 thoughts on “Faces of Don Rumata (Hard to Be a God)”

    1. I think “metafiction” is a description of certain methods, not a genre unto itself. If metafictive gestures are done with grace, wit, style, and for a purpose, I might be fond of them. If metafictive moves are clunky, dull, or glib, they annoy me. But again, I think “metafiction” — like “postmodernism” — isn’t a genre or category, but rather a description of features (formal and otherwise) in a work.


  1. The method vs. genre distinction that you have explained and your general definition of metafiction makes sense to me. Thank you for sharing.

    I asked the question because in Hard to be a God there was, perhaps, a recurring metafictive feature throughout the film: characters staring at us, talking at us, and hands, from time to time, would come in from off-screen spaces an do gratuitous little gestures and jigs with objects. Are these metafictive features to you? Are such moves clunky or annoying and if so why?


    1. I don’t think that the characters’ looking at the camera is a metafictive gesture, b/c I don’t interpret the screen as a camera per se but rather as a witness—I think that the characters (many insane) are witnessing the witness witness—-the film is bursting with witnessing–checking—the constant bustle, the light hitting, bopping, jostling, the constant checking–blowing smoke, swatting, popping, strange little gestures. The “us” the characters are speaking to is not the same “us” that, say, Ferris Bueller speaks to—the bridge between spectant and spectator is something else in Hard to Be a God. The film obliterates the idea of the film; it’s not metafiction.


  2. I like your read. And I really like the notion that “the film obliterates the idea of the film.” That the camera is a witness being witnessed and not only that, but that this ghostly, always off-screen witness (without any indication of a corpus) is witnessed by both crazy and (ostensibly) non-crazy characters — that drives me a little crazy! Looking at the film as such makes it quite menacing. I love that!

    I don’t know about you, but when the eyes of the crazy characters of Hard to be a God meet mine, they suddenly become gorgons to me. I feel disturbed when characters of a compelling fictional world seem to be aware of my window into their world. This is especially the case for me with cinema. Because cinema is supposed to be my permission to stare.

    Being so closely attached to this phantom witnessing presence–its “eyes” giving my eyes access to the world of Arkanar–, assuming the position of that which the psychopaths of Arkanar perhaps hallucinate… that’s bloodcurdling!

    All this makes me think about how Borges, at once, rationalizes and augments this kind of disturbance:

    “Why does it disturb us that the map be included in the map and the thousand and one nights in the book of the Thousand and One Nights? Why does it disturb us that Don Quixote be a reader of the Quixote and Hamlet a spectator of Hamlet? I believe I have found the reason: these inversions suggest that if the characters of a fictional work can be readers or spectators, we, its readers or spectators, can be fictitious. In 1833, Carlyle observed that the history of the universe is an infinite sacred book that all men write and read and try to understand, and in which they are also written.”


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