Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 8, No. 6, 2009
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Robert Rotondo
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
Dirty Pretty Things
Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River

Andrei Borisov's


reviewed by


Sylvain Richard is a film critic at Arts & Opinion. He gave By The Will of Genghis Kahn, which played at the 2009 Montreal World Film Festival, 3.5 out of 4 stars. For the rest of his ratings, click HERE.

As it concerns the great warriors of the past (Genghis Kahn, Hannibal, Alexander The Great), in film they are often portrayed as no more than the sum of their stereotypes: men who are gods in their time, strong when strength is asked for, fearless when fear spells defeat, and inspirational when bold leadership is the difference between life and death of a culture or dynasty. These natural born leaders are the products of warrior culture and the inflexible codes and protocols upon which empires or dynasties are founded.

Andrei Borisov’s epic, By The Will of Genghis Kahn, is a refreshing departure from the formula burdened warrrior film that chronologically charts the indefatigable warrior bucking the odds, embracing his exceptionality, and through sheer will and blood, forging the empire or dynasty with which his name will be forever associated.

Borisov, instead, dwells on the early years of of Genghis Kahn (1162-1227, birth name Temujin) and provides detail and complexity that make this work as much a character study as an excuse to wage spectacular battle scenes, of which there are several and they are thoroughly enjoyable.

The film opens with Khan’s father being defeated, the birth of his son and the very special relationship the boy is to have with his mother, who at an early age senses her child is exceptional. Filling in the many gaps of Khan’s early life, we learn that religion played an important part in the boy’s formation, that he was exposed to a strict moral code, and he was sensitive to the quiet beauty of his surroundings, which disposed him to first seek peaceful solutions to the problems at hand. Genghis Khan is not a savage looking for an excuse to overpower or eliminate all those who don’t bend to his will. He is a complex man who understands the reach of negotiation, which is always his first preference. In the establishment of the Mongolian empire, which he single-handedly accomplished by uniting the region’s warring tribes, he conquers some of them through the force of his personality, others with muscle and blade. In his wisdom, he did not impose his belief system or way of life on his subjugates.

This sprawling film does several things better than well. The dialogue, much of it subtitled in the many languages that are bandied about, isn’t wooden (à la Charlton Heston and Victor Mature) or stilted; the well choreographed battle scenes aren’t glamourized. The viewer is brought face to face with fear and death, and the sheer brutality and dehumanizing aspect of war (of all wars); and finally, we never lose sight of the real life personality of the main characters.

In the film’s most important relationship, between Khan and his blood brother Jamuka, who saved the former from drowning when they were kids, Khan’s master plan of uniting the tribes is not well received by Jamuka, who eventually betrays him, and then goes on to steal his wife. It redounds to the director’s feeling for narrative that this complex relationship is revealed through argument and conversation before the inevitable bloody confrontation; and that, true to character, Khan exhausts all peaceful solutions before unleashing the sword.

The second best reason for viewing the film are the spectacular locations, set in the Gobi desert, the Mongolian Steppes and the ice-covered Kihlyakh mountains in Yakutia. The natural beauty is so integrated into the story line, in and of itself it almost compels the notion of empire as a duty owed to landscape. For this felicitous result, Borisov deserves high marks, for a film that compares favourably with El Cid, regarded as a genre classic. We note that in both films that the benevolent sword produces the most lasting result.

For the ratings of 2009 Montreal World Film Festival, HERE.
 = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting
Montreal World Film Festival
Film Ratings Page of Sylvain Richard, film critic at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 10-21st, (514) 844-2172
Festivalissimo Film Festival - Montreal
2008 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL (Montreal) North America's Premier Genre Festival July 3-21
Montreal Jazz Festival
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis