Prisoner of the Mountains

Bomb Rating: 

Even though this film presents itself as a quaint little wartime parable of two Russian soldiers named Sacha(Oleg Menshikov) and Vania (Sergei Bodrov, Jr.), who are caught by local rebels while policing the Caucasus, the most significant images left in my brain were of rocks.

Apparently, Russia does not lack for rocks. There are rocks everywhere. And if it weren't enough that this film takes place in the mountains, which are really big rocks, everything else in the film seems to revolve around them. People haul rocks. They make their houses out of them. Sacha and Vania go down to the river to collect them. When they escape, they break their leg irons with them. When Vania is recaptured, he's put in a pit lined with them.

Rocks also provide the central metaphors. The rebel leader, Abdoul-Mourat (Jemal Sikharulidze) is hard-headed. He wants to trade the prisoners for his imprisoned son. Sacha, the more senior of the two soldiers, is also hard-headed, his opinions cemented by his experience in the military. There are no rules in war and he has no sympathy for anyone who is his enemy. When he escapes he kills somebody with a rock.

Vania and Abdoul-Mourat's daughter, Dina (Susanna Mekhralieva), are the two "soft" characters, both still young enough to see the value of being nice to people, regardless of their affiliations. But they have an untenable (see "rocky") relationship because they are on opposite sides of the conflict. The final moral of the story is also cold and hard. Ultimately, the only satisfaction gained from this film is after its end, when you're finally free to leave the theater and return to a world that, though full of lots of other annoying things, doesn't seem quite so cold and hard by comparison.

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