Friday, August 29, 2008

Storm Over Asia

Potomok Chingis-Khana; Silent drama, Russia, 1928; D: Vsevolod Pudovkin, S: Valéry Inkijinoff, I. Dedintsev, Aleksandr Chistyakov, Viktor Tsoppi, F. Ivanov

Central Asia. Some people visit an isolated tent in the middle of nowhere to visit a sick old man. A Mongol is summoned to cure him, but feels he is poorly paid so he steals his valuable fur. He tries to sell it to Russian capitalist on the market, but is angered by the low price and injures one of them, running away from the army. He joins the partisans fighting Soviets. Quickly, he is captured by the Soviets who decide to execute him. He is shot, but survives and is treated by the Soviets when they find a document at him claiming him to be the heir of Genghis Khan, hoping to place him as their satellite leader and strengthen their grip on Asian territories. But when he spots a fellow Mongol getting shot by the Soviets, he rebels against them.

Vsevolod Pudovkin's silent drama "Storm Over Asia" is a very competently made film, but after finishing watching it one can figure out why it never became a classic of cinema: the story is comprised out of three separate episodes that follow the Mongol hero and thus seem rather chaotic, finding it's real focus only in the last third, whereas the overlong running time of over two hours doesn't seem to pass that fast. The opening shots that show and present the majestic landscapes of central Asia - the steppe, a landslide that hits a tree on a cliff, a furry animal - is fantastic and masterfully sets up the location and the feel of it, while the story shows a topic that is rarely shown on the big screen, namely the Russian invasion and colonisation of huge and scarcely populated areas in Asia. There are also great little details that can be found here and there, like when the make up artists are lifting up the long hair of the wife of the Soviet commander to apply powder to her neck before they will visit the Lama in an Asian temple, yet the main hero seems rather vague and not so well developed, which is one of the reasons why the often brilliantly shot and executed film doesn't seem that powerful and authentic anymore.


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