Monday, November 21, 2016

Movie Review: "Prisoner of the Mountains" "Кавказский пленник"


Last night I watched the 1996 movie "Prisoner of the Mountains" loosely based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy called "Prisoner of the Caucuses." We read an abridged version of the story in Russian for the Russian class I am taking and watched the movie for the class.  

The movie is set during the bloody Chechen War of the mid 1990s shortly after the Soviet Union had collapsed. This is not an action movie in the American mold: no special effects, no big explosions.  But the relationship between the main characters is as good as I have seen in a war movie.  The captured career sergeant and draftee private are the center of the film.  Sasha, the sergeant, maintains his authority throughout their capture.  Even when they are chained together and facing death, Sasha lies to the young recruit Vanya in a way that made me laugh out loud.    

The movie also gets right the experience of an Army made up of draftee soldiers led by career soldiers.  The tension between those who love the Army and those who hate the Army never goes away, but both soldiers can be equally brave facing death.  Near the end of the movie, Sasha and Vanya escape.  Sasha kills a shepherd to get his gun.  Shortly after they are recaptured because of a mistake by Vanya.  Sasha admits killing the shepherd and walks to his death, allowing Vanya to live. Later Vanya has a chance to escape again, but refuses when it would risk the life of a Chechen girl.

The relationship between Sasha and Vanya makes this movie well worth watching.