Mar 16, 2005

Kavkazskiy Plennik (Prisoner of the Mountain)

Kavkazskiy plennik (1996)
Directed by
Sergei Bodrov

This is a wonderful if depressing film. Based partially on Tolstoy's "Prisoner of the Caucasus” (Кавказский пленник), which itself was based upon an earlier story by Pushkin of a similar theme, the story is about a Russian soldier taken prisoner by Tatar mountain people.(It should be noted that "Tatar" in this sense refers almost universally to Muslim mountain dwellers in the Caucasus. It's kind of like calling all Native Americans "Indians". Inaccurate shorthand). Although in the beginning the soldier possesses all the prejudices his national identity has fostered in him, he comes to love and respect his captors.

One of the interesting things about this film is that it demonstrates just how far glasnost ideology has taken artistic expression in Russia in the past couple of decades in that the film is quite critical of the Russian military, and yet the movie was as popular and widely distributed in Russia as any Hollywood movie is in the U.S. Although not entirely sympathetic to the Chechen situation, it deftly tackles the intractable problems faced on both sides of the Russian/Chechen wars. Russia has been trying to "pacify" the Caucasus Mountains for hundreds of years, and for hundreds of years, the various Muslim groups in this contested borderland have resisted assimilation.

While keeping in mind that this is a popular movie (one of the stars of the film who died a couple of years ago in a skiing accident was said to be "The Russian Brad Pitt), if you're curious about the Chechen "problem", you could do worse than watch this film.

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