Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Vladislav Moudrykh* Memorial Review - MONGOL

As an armchair military historian an avid player of Medieval Total War II (does my geekdom know no bounds?) I can't think of a movie more designed to appeal to me than MONGOL - the first in a three part biopic of Gengis Khan. In the twelfth century, this man united the fractious Mongol tribes under his leadership by a mixture of savage physical force and strict adherence to the rule of law. By the time he died he'd conquered most of Central Asia. His descendents' Empire ran from China to Eastern Europe. The tragedy for historians is that Gengis Khan lived in a community rich in oral tradition but without a written record of great deeds. Accordingly, the history of Gengis Khan is largely made up of myth and patriotic legend. To some he is a hero - to others, a butcher.

Sergei Bodrov's film leans heavily toward the former interpretation although, as the film ends before Gengis starts invading his neighbours, it could be that Bodrov will paint a more balanced picture in future films. Still, it's interesting that Bodrov chooses not to show Temudjin killing his brother on a hunting trip....

Other than that exclusion the film is actually rather less bombastic than one might have imagined. In fact, Temudjin spends most of the film getting his arse kicked by a variety of angry tribesman, foreign powers, and even his blood brother! Temudjin is also portrayed as being firmly under the thumb of his deceptively quiet-spoken wife, Borte. All this adds up to a far more engaging, human picture than I had expected. I especially loved the charismatic, insouciant blood brother Jamukha, played by Honglei Sun - a total scene stealer.

Hillarious inter-marital escapades aside, MONGOL also boasts some of the most stunning cinematography and costumes I've ever scene. You leave the film having a real feel for the lifestyle of medieval Mongols and half falling in love with the landscape. Kudos to Sergei Trofimov (of the WATCH movies) and Rogier Stoffers (DISTURBIA.)

Overall, MONGOL is deeply entertaining, has some suitably gory battle scenes, but also lots of quietly funny family drama. I think it's a bit of a shame that the Oscar nom has led the PR guys to pimp it out as an art-house movie. It could've had the appeal of a GLADIATOR. I'm certainly looking forward to the sequel.

MONGOL played Toronto 2007 and opened in Russia in 2007 and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. It was released earlier this year in Turkey, Japan, France, Belgium and Italy. It opened this weekend in the UK and US and opens next week in Australia. It opens in Israel on July 10th, in Germany and the Netherlands in August and in Norway on September 5th.

*This review honours Vladislav Moudrykh, Fellow Scoundrel and Peasant Outreach Officer, 1998-2002, Missing, Presumed Fed.

1 comment:

  1. I am alive.
    Yours ever, (Vladislav)DDr. Mudrych