Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sergey Bodrov: Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan - Монгол (2007)

Director: Sergey Bodrov
Writers: Arif Aliyev , Sergey Bodrov
Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Amadu Mamadakov, Khulan Chuluun


Best film "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2007
Best directing "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2007
Best Cinematography "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2007
Best Set Decoration "NIKA" Prizes, Russia, 2007
Best Set Decoration Yelena ZHUKOVA , Dashi NAMDAKOV , Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Russia, 2007

The origins of Sergei Bodrov's new epic feature, Mongol, Part One, tell consumers and critics a lot about the fate of Russian cinema in the new millennium. The German-Kazakh-Russian co-production venture hired a Russian-born film director, together with film workers from other countries, to make a transnational film targeted at multiple national and international communities within the framework of global media-based capitalism. Relying on his experience in making Soviet, Russian, and transnational films, Bodrov completed the new project with exceptional professionalism. He started his career in the 1970s and remained prolific and successful even during the 1990s, the most difficult years for the new Russian film industry. His Prisoner of the Mountains (Kavkazskii plennik1996) won an Oscar nomination for best foreign film, and was one of the few Russian films to gain international release and acclaim during this decade. In 2005 Bodrov co-directed (with Ivan Passer and Talgat Temenov) the most expensive Kazakh film ever made, a $40 million historical epic, Nomad (Kochevniki).
Mongol is, above all, a Hollywood melodrama, that is, a story of love, fall, and redemption, in fact a story of a bourgeois nuclear family threatened by historical forces beyond the heroes' control at the film's beginning. The lovers' many separations caused by larger than life historical forces, enhanced by superb camerawork, editing, and CGI, end up with the eventual reunification of the protagonists. What gives this quintessentially Western story an orientalizing spice is the identity of the protagonists and the film's setting. Bodrov tells a story of the young Genghis Khan (Tadanobu Asano) and his first wife Börte (Khulan Chuluun) set against the background of exotic Central Asian steppes and decorated with sartorial elegance by the film's award winning costume designer, Karin Lohr.
The film also employs the narrative of uncovering the true, softer nature of the protagonist, traditionally seen in Russia and the West as a monster. This paradigm is familiar to any modern viewer brought up on such Western myth-making narratives as the stories of King Kong or Beauty and the Beast. Bodrov debunks the standard Western image of Genghis Khan as a larger than life Oriental monster and presents the alternative story of the early years of the famous empire builder: a story of poverty, slavery, and love overcoming death and treason. Alastair Gee of Moscow Times notes that “Bodrov's drama aims to deconstruct the notion of Genghis Khan as a bloodthirsty murderer … ‘Genghis Khan is not a popular man in Russia; his name is not well loved,' Bodrov said. ‘I'm telling a story and saying: look how it happened… He abolished torture, not so many people know about that,' the director added. ‘And Mongolians used to have slaves—he said no to that.'” However, if one doesn't care much about the Mother Theresa side of Genghis Khan, there is plenty of blood and gore in spectacular battle scenes masterfully filmed by Sergei Trofimov [1] and Roger Stoffers [2], and edited by the Oscar-winning Zach Staenberg, the editor of The Matrix (1999; dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski).
Reviewed by Alexander Prokhorov© 2008 in KinoKultura

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