Thursday, 9 July 2015

Iron and Blood: The Legend of Taras Bulba (2009)

There's a scene about 40 minutes into this film where I lost any interest in, or empathy for, the protagonists.  Now my attitude toward them wasn't very positive even before this, since they were boozy, blokey and macho.  But at this point of the movie, the Cossack "good guys" learn that Catholic Poles are mistreating their countrymen.  Their reaction: to hold a pogrom against the Jews.

Now it is true that the main character does save one of the Jews.  But it is not out of you know, common decency or because killing Jews for Catholic crimes is frickin' stupid.  It's because the man once helped his brother.  So he goes in the same cesspit, character-wise, as his countrymen.

Ah yes, his countrymen.  But what country?  The film identifies them as Russian, though they live in the Ukraine.  Reading more about the movie since watching it, I discovered that the director is of the opinion that "there is no separate Ukraine".  I doubt the Ukrainians would agree with him.

The plot is basically that the terrible, wicked and evil Poles are trying to overrun the Ukraine, and the brave "Russians" (Ukrainians) are fighting back.  The core characters are an aging cossack named Taras Bulba, and his two adult sons.  The younger of the sons falls in love with a Polish woman.  In another story, that might be the symbol that allows for a new detente and the end of interminable warfare.  In this one, however, it leads to Taras Bulba executing his own son in cold blood.

Not that the Poles are depicted as any better.  How could they be, since they are the supposed villains of the piece?  Though it is worth noting that the movie's one act of mercy is performed by a Polish character.

Eventually, Taras and his other son both die horrific, painful deaths and the movie ends.  Thank goodness.

Normally I'd acknowledge that all this nastiness is in the original novel on which the film is based, and then spend time complaining about the film's odd technical choices, such as narration over battle scenes, and spoken Russian translations of Polish dialogue (i.e. the line is delivered in Polish, and then the narrator repeats it in Russian), but that would merely prolong thinking about this deeply unpleasant movie, and I'd really rather not.

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