So, another day and another forgotten film…
Historical epics are my favorite kind when it comes to epic big budget blockbusters. Sure, we all like our Star Wars or the next MCU entry but to me, nothing excites me more than a solid historical film. It also equally pains me when a really good entry in this genre goes unnoticed and fades into obscurity. That is why, I am taking this opportunity to talk about, Mongol, a 2008 Russian film depicting the life of Genghis Khan. It is directed by Sergei Bodrov, starring Tadanobu Asano, Honglei Sun and Khulan Chuluun.
The film starts with the young Temujin, going to select a bride for himself, along with his father. This will finally end the year’s long feud between his father and mother’s tribes. But Temujin selects his bride from a different tribe against the wishes of his father, which sets off a chain of events, setting much of the film.
The main reason this film caught me so off guard was its emphasis on removing all the legend of Genghis Khan and focus solely on the man. When we usually think of Genghis Khan, images of a bloodthirsty warlord and a massive army conquering and pillaging comes to our mind. We never think of him ever being a child or someone’s son. Bodrov’s film does exactly that. The main focus is Temujin, a 9 year old boy’s journey into manhood. His relationship with his wife and most trusted advisor, Borte, his complex friendship/enmity with Jamukha. It strips away all the mythical stature of Genghis Khan that we have come to known throughout the years about the man and presents him to us as he really was. A Man.
It also helps that Mongol is a beautiful looking film. Shot in Mainland Mongolia/China, the cinematography of the barren yet beautiful landscapes is breathtaking. It gives you a sense of just how tough their life was and how this environment shaped Temujin. When the battle scenes happen, you appreciate these wide angle long takes so much more. Along with a rousing score consisting of traditional Mongolian chants which give the entire film a haunting and surreal feel. It also has a very patient pace to it that is becoming rare in modern Hollywood epics. Instead of rapid fire editing so often used, even in large scale battle sequences, Mongol has a steady pace that allows you to soak in the enormity of the situation and story.
Mongol is a brilliant film for its character study of a man who created the largest empire in human history. It has a sense of scale that we rarely see in films and definitely one of the best historical epics of modern times. Do check it out.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Onepeggenius.com.