Prisoner depicts rural life in Chechen village

Directed by Sergei Bodrov, Prisoner of the Mountains starts with group of men, camera focused on the main character, Vanya Gilin (Sergei Bodrov Jr.), getting health inspections in order to join the Russian army.

Based on Leo Tolstoy’s book The Prisoner of the Caucasus, the 1996 film takes place in a Chechen village surrounded by the Caucasus mountains. An older soldier, Sasha Kostylin (Oleg Menshikov) and Gilin are taken hostage by a Chechen man Abdul-Murat (Dzhemal Sikharulidze) in an ambush early in the film. The angered Murat is looking for a way to get back his son who was taken prisoner by the Russians.

While shackled throughout most of their time in Murat’s village, Murat’s brother-in-law Hasan (Aleksandr Bureyev) also guards Kostylin and Gilin. Forming a mostly unspoken bond with her, at the end he falls in love, asking her to marry him. Being much younger, she says she cannot since his people are the enemies.

A background song sung by the children of the mountains explains the differences outsiders face with mountain village life. This alone gives the viewer insight on how Chechen and Russian life can be different.

Bordov used cinematography to portray what life might be like for Russian villagers. Several long shots and establishing shots were taken to show the viewer the landscape of winding mountain roads and villages. Dress played a role as well, such as Murat wearing a long, black coat with boots and a tall, fur-covered hat. He also had a thick, gray mustache.

Gilin forms a bond, not only with the daughter, but also with the people of the village. He tells Kostylin that he does not want to kill them after they are freed by other Russian soldiers. Kostylin tells him that he has to because they are in a war.

Even though the village children sing of how life is so different and strangers to their land tend not to like it, through Gilin’s eyes, these people are not so unlike him and his familiarities. Their basic values are similar. Family, religion and love of life play a deeper role.

After every attempt made by Murat to get his son back, he finds out he was killed while trying to escape.

While Murat is out of town, Kostylin and Gilin are caught while trying to escape. Kostylin and Gilin are caught by the villagers. The villagers disliked Kostylin being in the village, so they murdered him. Gilin is taken back to Murat.

Given the key to his shackles by Murat’s daughter, Gilin climbs out of the hole he was put into but does not flee. Instead, he stays with the daughter.

Murat comes with a rifle to execute him. Peacefully walking in front of Murat, Gilin is led through a graveyard then up a hill to be shot. A shot is heard, but it does not hit him. Gilin turns around, and Murat has walked off.

While walking away from the village, Gilin sees Russian helicopters coming toward him. After an attempt to wave them down, they continue to fly toward the village he grew to love and know so well.

Part of the Russian Film Festival, Prisoner was shown on Sept. 7 in Cornell Auditorium.