Directed by: Andrei Proshkin. First of all, I’ll admit that my main reason for checking out this movie is that I have a temporary fascination with the Mongol Empire thanks to a few episodes of a great podcast called Hardcore History by amateur historian Dan Carlin. The period covered in this movie is way beyond what’s in the podcast, more towards the tail end of the fractured Khanates. But, irregardless, it’s still a fascinating period of time and a fascinating movie. Setting aside for a moment the visual appeal (this movie is worth seeing for its amazing costumes and sets alone), this is a really interesting, unconventional narrative. It starts with a classic Psycho-style psyche-out (film studies terminology), focusing on characters who we learn very quickly are not the characters we’ll be following for the next two hours. Come to think of it, the main character, the “sorcerer”, the old man protagonist guy, doesn’t even come onscreen until like 30 minutes in. Not really knowing much about Russian cinema, it’s hard to tell how much of the tone and character of this film is particular to the film or the filmmaker, and how much can be read as some national predilection towards a vague distance from the characters and an ambiguous sense of lofty faith and mysticism mixed with a very cold, atheistic judgment of the historical events. There were a lot of layers in this film that I think would reward multiple viewings, and most of this comes down to the characterization. The film treats all of the main characters with virtually equal distance and confusion. I’m not sure that I could really figure out the Khan, Janibeg, any better than his mysterious mother, or the old man, or poor Fyodor, or the mysterious Mongol protector Timur. It’s that element of mysterious distance that will keep me pondering this movie.