Hard To Be A God

21, 22, 23, 24, 25/05 – 21:00
2h 30min

Kornél Mundruczó’s Frankenstein-project made a lasting impression when it was presented at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts last year. With his anything but charming characters performing in a hyper-realistic and intimate setting, the young Hungarian film and theatre director knew how to unsettle his audience. His explosive mix of professional and amateur actors triggers compassion, even though they play tough, shocking characters. Utter defencelessness is the basis of Mundruczó’s latest production, which will premiere at the festival. The plot is borrowed from the Strugatsky brothers’ sci-fi novel Hard To Be A God. This is also where the uncompromising director got his idea of a God who watches his creation from a distance, just as we avert our eyes from society’s darker sides, such as human trafficking. By creating a staged reality show featuring real people on a real stage in a real truck, Mundruczó raises a mirror to the audience: will they, god-like, keep watching from the sidelines? Or will they be moved to act?

Kornél Mundruczó

Yvette Bíró

Roland Rába, Annamária Lang, Orsi Tóth, Zsolt Nagy, János Derzsi, Rudolf Frecska, László Katona, Gergely Bánki, Diána Magdolna Kiss, Kata Weber

Set design & costumes
Márton Ágh

Viktória Petrányi

Dóra Büki

Production supervisor
Judit Sós

Technics & light
András Éltető

Sound & video
Zoltán Belényesi

Gergely Nagy

Andrea Szakál

Assistant Director
Balázs Lengyel

Tour & Taxis

Proton Cinema (Budapest)

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Alkantara Festival with Culturgest (Lisbon), Théâtre National de Bordeaux, Rotterdamse Schouwburg (Productiehuis Rotterdam), Theater der Welt (Essen), Trafó - House Of Contemporary Arts (Budapest), Baltoscandal Festival (Rakvere)

Supported by
Eky Light (Budapest)

Project coproduced by
NXTSTP, with the support
of the Culture Programme
of the European Union

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Hard To Be A God

The basic premise of the performance is human defencelessness. We see two trucks on their way in which five men are keeping prostitutes against their will. We don’t know where they are coming from, nor what direction they are going to go in, but they have all given up on their freedom in the hope of some better future. The constrained confinement creates a separate world for them. The travelling box is the scene of their lives.

In this transitory life, men make the rules and the four walls of the truck enclose the empire in which they reign. Their methods are also imperial and don’t lack the means of totalitarianism. They know their business, and they know the rules of being on the road as well as the girls know the scope of action provided to them, including all the lanes and potholes of being at someone else’s mercy.

This is the premise in which the scenes from the novel Hard to Be a God by the Brothers Strugatsky come to life. The novel is the inspiration of the plotline for the production. We do not examine the novel in its totality, only from the aspect of Divine distance and responsibility, as the central topic of the production is exactly that.

Among the 12 people travelling in the truck there is an infiltrated man as well. He sees what is happening around him but according to his mission he cannot intervene in the events. His position is strictly that of observer, limited to see his own human existence but not able to do anything else than watch this trip towards hell. He is present like God, far from the joy of creation, as a dolorous observer. It is in this state of inaction he observes the truck crammed with a heavy melodramatic load. For a while. Until the human prevails in him, the human that is unable to stay inactive, whose living element is becoming part of the life surrounding him and he cannot withdraw himself any longer. Because he has a heart. So he has to act. Understanding the dark laws of the truck, the only possible solution seems to be fighting them with their own methods. Violence. Destruction.

In the East European region this transitory situation is very familiar: being at someone’s mercy while being on the road illegally, fleeing from somewhere. It is now a universal phenomenon. We hear and read about it all the time. But we can only know it as passively and from such a distance as the gods do. The aim of the production is to show the dilemma posed by the juxtaposition of inactive presence and active life in a constrained pace, in the struggle between God and Man.

The performance creates a situation, an atmosphere, in which the audience’s position as observer in also questioned. The realistic nature of the events makes the audience present within it, thus allowing them to pose the questions of observing themselves. The un-stylised truck scenes present the stage on the one hand, on the other they give the basis for a reality show in which we are anxious to get out of the “peeping” situation. Real objects, real people, two real trucks. These are the indispensable elements of a play without playing in which we can choose between human and divine roles and responsibilities, in which the question arises: will we stay observers or become human?

The show also touches the current issue of radical ideologies in Europe. We see that, especially in Eastern Europe, radical politics are getting stronger, more and more radical groups are being born. In the show the group of men belong to a radical group with rather frightening ideas about life and politics. The ideology is as radical as it is questionable, but which still has fragments of truth, and these men would even sacrifice their lives for this little spark of truth. The son of the president belongs to the group as well, and this fact has a great impact on the story.

While developing the show we researched human trafficking and prostitution to be able to include more fragments from life. We collected several stories and we tried to look behind the scenes. Who tortures who? Who looks for shelter? Who is looking for love? Who is surviving and who is the king of this huge empire of violence?

The approach is not documentarist, though we might have an idea of people living on the edge of something. We would like to show a small world where even God can hardly see, as the darkness of unhappiness is everywhere.

Among the actors, there are professionals and amateurs too; people who inspired the director and became his creative partners while building up a team during the working process. Some of the same actors we previously worked with, some from the formal Krétakör Theatre and some actors from the Frankenstein-project, our most popular theatre performance, which was presented at Kunstenfestivaldesarts 09, and is now touring theatre festivals worldwide.

Kornél Mundruczó

January 2010

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Kornél Mundruczó (°1975) is an emblematic figure in Hungarian cinema. As a filmmaker, writer and actor, he has created a highly personal universe surrounding his favourite themes: disillusion, defective family relations, rejection by others or depression. These are all downbeat themes that are hard to handle and which often unsettle the audience. After two feature length films that received international critical acclaim - Szép napok (Pleasant Days) and Johanna (selected for the 2005 Cannes sidebar section ‘Un Certain Regard’), his third film Delta (2008) was awarded the FIPRESCI prize in Cannes. Since 2003 Kornél Mundruczó has also been working for the theatre. In 2009 he made an appearance with co-writer Yvette Biro at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts with Frankenstein-project. The film version of this project, Mundruczó’s fourth feature film, has been selected for the official competition of the 2010 Cannes film festival.

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