Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Mongol has been out in film festivals for some time and saw limited release last year, even picking up an Academy Award nom (Best Foreign Film), but just recently found its way to my local arthouse theatre.

The movie tells the story of a young Genghis Khan, the great 12-century Mongolian warlord. Admittedly, this is history with an asterisk. Most of the story is based on The Secret History of the Mongols, the oldest Mongolian literature extant, written as a tribute to Ghengis Khan after his death, and probably as much heroic poetry as historical fact. Despite these blurry lines, it is as good a foundation as any to tell the beginnings of the greatest conqueror in the world's history and one of its most intriguing leaders. It also makes for a great story.

Mongol follows the young Temudjin (his given name) from birth through an extraordinarily challenging childhood, despite his favorable heritage (his father was a minor tribal chief). We see a surprisingly mature 10-year-old choose his wife (or, vice-versa really), witness his father's murder, and survive the most extreme trials, tribulations and torture with stoic determination and fortitude.

Growing into manhood, Temudjin uses his natural leadership talent and skill in combat to reap his revenge and begin assembling the army that would eventually conquer most of Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

This is an engaging film, beautifully crafted by veteran Russian director Sergei Bodrov. Shot on location in China, there is a rich, verdant oppressiveness to the settings, befitting the rugged outdoor life of the nomadic tribes. Spoken in Mongol with subtitles (and using Mongolian and Chinese actors), the films feels strangely authentic. The battles are orchestrated with grandeur and realism (and plenty of gore), reminiscent of Braveheart, giving the production a big-budget feel.

Rumor has it that this is the first of a trilogy Bodrov is planning on the life of Genghis Khan. That would be an ambitious undertaking and an extraordinary product. In any event, Mongol certainly is a painless way to take your history.


Post a Comment

<< Home