Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ardak Amirkulov - Gibel Otrara AKA The Fall of Otrar (1991)

Ardak Amirkulov is one of the best directors of the New Kazakh Wave.

An amalgam of influences ranging from Ivan the Terrible to Andrei Rublev (Amirkulov shot Kairkhan's death from The Fall of Otrar as a tribute to Andrei Tarkovskii's film Andrei Rublev) to Conan the Barbarian with quite a lot of Kurosawa/Mifune samurai epics, of late John Ford-style western epics, or of Peckinpah thrown in as well - making a unique whole. Inexplicably shot on both color and black and white stock with little transitional logic. At times threatening to lapse into incoherence, but never quite abandoning the audience. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Amirkulov must have been enjoying almost total artistic freedom: as evidenced by the near-constant violence, a good deal of nudity, and plenty of religious discussion, no censorship of any kind has been imposed by the state. This is one of those occasions where the moviemakers went to great trouble and expense to produce something that looks and feels like primal folklore.

Fascinating epic The Fall of Otrar is a vivid and surprisingly historically accurate account of events in the 13th century which foreshadowed events of worldwide significance. Perhaps a bit of historical background will help viewers appreciate this film more.

In the early part of the 13th century, having consolidated the Mongol tribes, Chinggis Khan began his first overtures to the western domains by sending a caravan of several hundred camels carrying great quantities of silk, silver, gold, and other goods to the realm of Khwarizm, whose Shah Mohammed was the greatest power between the Indian subcontinent and Baghdad. The Shah's mother was not Persian but from the Central Asian Turkic Kanglis tribe, which supplied the Shah with his cavalry and provided the primary basis for his power. The Shah and the Caliph of Baghdad were involved in various intrigues against each other and jockeying for supreme influence over the Islamic peoples and lands. When the caravan stopped in the border town of Otrar located along the Silk Road, the local governor could not help himself and killed the merchants and seized all the valuables. When Chinggis Khan sent an ambassador to the Shah with a polite request to right this wrong, the Shah, not yet knowing that he was dealing with the future world conqueror, killed the ambassador and burned the beards of his military escorts. The Mongols considered ambassadors inviolable, and an attack on Chinggis Khan's ambassador was tantamount to an attack on the Great Khan himself. This triggered the Great Khan to summon all of his troops and to lead the first Mongol campaign to the western regions outside of their traditional lands, an onslaught which did not stop until the Caliph of Baghdad was trampled under Mongol hoofs, the Russians utterly defeated, innumerable other foes vanquished, and Mongols consolidated under their rule virtually all of the lands of Asia and Europe from the China Sea to gates of Vienna, creating the greatest land-based empire in history. This Pax Mongolica made possible Marco Polo's subsequent journey to China. Thus, Otrar was the first stop and the calm before this ferocious storm - a storm which perhaps could have been averted - or at least postponed - had the governor not been so greedy, or if Shah Mohammed had righted the wrong (IMDb)

no pass no subs

no pass no subs