It is also the males who are shown to be greedy.
Rather than only taking one hostage, they decide to take two. However, even though we see the bad side of masculinity, forgiveness is shown at the end when Abdoul spares Zhilin’s life. In some respects, the way that both genders are shown is stereotypical. The women can be seen as maternal and avoid conflict where as the men show physical strength but are mentally weaker.Today’s developed world is heading towards gender equality but the same stereotypes could be said to exist everywhere years ago. Even though at a basic level, some of the characters display weak mindedness, Zhilin shows incredible mental strength in surviving his time as a hostage. It is also interesting to know that his name actually contains the word ‘life’.
Zhit’ in Russian means to live. By adjusting that to Zhilin, his name carries a meaning.Whether Bodrov uses this without realizing or wants it to be there subconsciously, it is definitely important to the film. The presence of Sascha also goes a long way to keep Zhilin going. As I have mentioned before, there is the maternal mother but in some respects, Sascha acts as a father figure. The speed in which he owns up to killing the shepherd without hesitation is a massive sacrifice.
Something that maybe only a father would do to save his child.Even though the film deals with the miserable theme of war, there is light relief in parts. It is hard to believe that after all that Hassan has endured he would be able to smile but a heart-warming moment arrives when the prisoners share a drink with their guard. This is a crucial moment in the formation of the soldiers friendship as they are now stripped of their backgrounds. Their age, rank and experience is irrelevant as they must find things in common to co-operate.Another subtle meaning that Bodrov slips in is when the hostages are relaxing and listening to the radio. The voice we hear is instantly recognizable as Louis Armstrong and although the film may be set in the middle of nowhere, through this, the audience knows that they are not totally out of touch with the civilized world.
The song he sings carries an important message. As identified by Von Bussack (1997) its title ‘Let My People Go’ (a Negro freedom song) can be related to the soldier’s situation. Music is used at several points during the film to create different atmospheres.Generation and gender seem to be the controlling factors in where power lies but in the case of generation, this is thrown out of the window when we are introduced to the Chechen gorilla fighters. Abdoul Mourat’s power over the hostages seems to be rendered useless when they enter the film. He never seems entirely happy with this but there is little he can do as their strength in numbers and physical strength belittle him.
Another noticeable thing is how the younger Chechens seem to have less respect for tradition. The dress code for the majority of powerful males seems to be long trench coats and oversized hats but the gorillas disregard this and dress in their camouflage uniforms. Mehmet’s son also goes against his elders. Working for the Russian police is seen as such as betrayal (effectively working for the enemy) that his father decides that he has no other choice but to kill him. Although never talked about in detail during the film, honor killings seem to be part of Caucasus culture.Finally, the ending of the film shows “the absurdity of war” (Berardinelli 1997) Even though one of the soldiers is released, his comrade has had his throat cut and we presume most of the people that he formed a relationship with would have been killed by the helicopter guns ships. Perhaps Ross sums it up best when he says “The final scene is one that you’ve seen in a thousand other anti-war movies, but your heart mourns nevertheless.” (The Bear Truth, 1997)However, in ‘Prisoner of the Mountains’ death does not spell the end.
After the brutal scene of Sascha having his throat cut, he comes back on a couple of occasions to guide his younger friend. Part of Russian folklore, the older man tells his younger friend how peaceful it is after death and if he wanted, he could join him. However, this only spurs Zhilin on to stay alive. Bodrov refrains from using too much blood and guts and by doing this, keeps the film focused on the characters.
This cleverly forces the audience to evoke emotion.In conclusion, through the use of several discussed points it has been shown that there stands to be some kind of relationship between nationality, generation and gender in ‘Prisoner of the Mountains’. It would be ignorant to say that there is no relationship at all between the three but it is the strength of the relationships that is maybe more important. Other examples can be drawn from similar films such as Gillo Pontecorvo’s ‘The Battle of Algiers’.Here we have a similar struggle for freedom with the focus being mainly on a young hero but also on his relationships with others around him. In relation to Bodrov’s production, the link between nationality and generation is upset by Mehmet’s son with him selling out his country to be part of the Russian police and the same goes for the balance of power between young and old. It is difficult to find a strong, unquestionable correlation in either film, as between the three factors, there always seems to be an exception to the rule.
Bibliography:Andrew, Joe (no date) ‘I love you, dear captive’: Gender and Narrative in Two Versions of The Prisoner of the Caucasus. In: J. Andrew (ed.) (no title). (No publisher), (no place).
Gillespie, D. and Zhuravkina, N (1996) Sergei Bodrov’s A Prisoner of the Mountains. Rusistika 14:56-58Kauffmann, Stanley (1997) Mountains, Minders. New Republic 216:24