World Conqueror (Mongol)
Enter Genghis Khan
Â Mongol is the first in Russian director Sergei Bodrovâs trilogy on Genghis Khan. Itâs the origin story: The 9-year-old boy witnesses his father poisoned by enemies, his familyâs herds run off, his tribeâs leadership usurped by a traitor and his betrothed ravished by rivals. In those years the boy went by his given name, Temudgin. By the end of the film he assumed the title of Genghis Khan, âGreat Chief,â after unifying the Mongol hordes on the field of battle.
rough but beautiful setting of Temudginâs vengeance quest is reminiscent of
John Fordâs saga, The Searchers. In
that Western classic, John Wayneâs obsessive anti-hero rides the frontier to
avenge his familyâs honor. In Mongol,
the stakes are higher. After tracking and killing everyone who ever harmed him
or his kinfolk, Temudgin is positioned to lead
Â The adult Temudgin, played with the intense stillness of a Zen warrior by Tadanobu Asano, exudes dangerous but focused manly prowess. Let lesser chieftains fly into berserker rage; Temudgin bides his time, perceives the weakness of his enemies, wins by strategy as much as bravery. The many battle scenes are highly stylized showers of blood, suggesting the influence of Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein along with more recent martial arts extravaganzas.
Â Genghis Khan understood himself as a man of destiny, and Mongol surrounds Temudgin in a mystic web of the miraculous; the young warrior is the junction of a network of purpose and pattern behind seemingly disparate events. He is not a kind man, although he is humanized by devotion for his wife, Borte (Khulan Chuluun), whom he rescues and who later rescues him in return. Temudgin fashioned himself as a lawgiver, bringing justice and order to the savage frontier on the outskirts of civilization.The ethnography feels correct, including the costumes of warriors and their wives, the feathered garb of the shamans. But Mongol isnât merely a dramatized documentary. Bodrovâs devotion to plausible detail is swept along by magnificent cinematography in a compelling epic of treachery and heroism, fidelity and love.