Sunday, July 20, 2008
I’d been looking forward to this film for weeks – in fact it was the deciding factor for me to stay in New Zealand for the film festival – and I wasn’t disappointed. The scenery was as stunning as expected – vast plains and simple nomadic settlements framed by dusky mountain ranges on the great steppes of Mongolia. In this first part of the planned trilogy I don’t know whether Director Sergei Bodrov challenged the genre but he certainly made a good job of it.
We follow the early years of Ghengis Khan (then known less ostentatiously by his first name, Temujin) as he is relentlessly harried and floored by his fathers’ enemies in the years following his murder by an ememy tribe. Too young to fight back but not old enough for his enemies to murder him and retain their honour. This first part takes us to the point where he has united the Mongol tribes under his leadership – showing his ruthlessness in battle but generosity and integrity in dealing with his people. He is portrayed as a man of inner strength and integrity – whether this accurately reflects the man is open to debate – leading by three simple rules: Always repay your debts, do not betray your Khan and never kill women or children.
The story has obviously been dramatised for film and although based on history the accuracy of events and characters are questionable. According to Wikipedia there is very little factual information about the early life of Temüjin and the few available sources are often conflicting – ripe ground for filmmaking I would suggest.
I felt there was a big unexplained leap from his escape from prison after being sold as a slave to his leading a vast army to take his place as leader of the Mongols. However the gaps in the narrative have left me inspired me to find out more about the great Khan, rather than annoyed at a hole in the plot. What more can you ask of a film than entertainment and inspiration?
Bodrov has successfully built a platform of sympathy and understanding for his young Gengis Khan, the intimate love story and tragic early events running through the film have made him a worthy hero. We are now ready to follow Gengis as he rampages across the globe, creating the largest Empire in the history of the world.
I reluctantly left the theatre feeling like I could take in parts two and three of this trilogy in one sitting.
Bring on part II.
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