Foreign Fridays: Mongol

Sorry Foreign Fridays is a little late this week but it has been pretty busy in the ole Soothsayer’s neck of the woods.

The undertaking to make Mongol must have been overwhelming. Because here you have a film made in the actual region of Mongolia where Genghis Khan grew up, it stars Chinese and Japanese actors and is helmed by a Russian director. This Kazakhstani production is probably the closest depiction of Genghis Khan’s life we will ever see on screen and it is phenomenal.

Oscar nominated in 2008 for best foreign film, Mongol opens with a young Temudjin (later Genghis Khan) journeying with his father to a nearby village to choose a bride. Temudjin is just eight years old. His father warns him that when choosing a bride you must find one with strong legs. Makes sense because 3/4 of the movie Temudjin and his wife, Borta, are running or riding away from something. It is not easy becoming Khan.

The movie follows Temudjin’s life from eight to when he finally unites the clans of Mongolia and starts to shape his world conquering army. You get to see why Genghis was able to assemble so many men and who his allies and adversaries were during the unification. There is also quite a passionate love story here between Genghis and his wife but I am sure that was nurtured with dramatic license.

(left to right) Tadanobu Asano and Khulan Chuluun

You have to admire this film’s scope and magnitude, first of all. The way the movie was filmed really reminded me alot of the first Conan film, with sweeping landscapes, his father warning his son about their god, conquering and well survival. There are lots of parallels between this film and Conan except one is fantasy and one is “based” on fact.

The three stars of the film are out of this world. Temudjin is played by respected actor Tadanobu Asano who has made over fifty films in Japan. He is amazing as Temudjin and projects the his regalness and spirit even when he is covered head to toe in mud. He kind of reminds me of Toshiro Mifune and how his presence could just stir any man in his wake. Chinese actor Honglei Sun’s Jamukha (or Genghis’s on again, off again best friend) is cold, calculating and amazing to watch. The way he bounces off Asano is something to be seen. Finally there is Khulan Chuluun who plays Borte, she has this look that she does that just rips right into your soul and it is that look that you know why Temudjin is fascinated with her. Also her chemistry with Asano can not be denied.

My only real complaint about the film was that it ends quite abruptly. But there has been talk about this is the first of a trilogy of films based on Genghis Khan’s life and IMDB just released details on the second film called “The Great Khan” coming in 2010. I personally can’t wait. Through and through this is a brilliant film if you are a diehard history buff or just an epic movie lover. Seek out Mongol, find this movie! I so want it on Blu-Ray!

5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

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