Genghis Khan: Family Values Man

MongolWhat are we to make of a film like Mongol? Certainly, we don’t expect it to be historically accurate. I think we expect it to be thematically and emotionally accurate. Take Braveheart, for example: it is a mess from a historical stand-point, but it does provide a pretty good picture of William Wallace.[1] Mongol, on the other hand, is far more accurate than Braveheart. But it does present Genghis Khan as a far more likable guy than he probably was—just trying to bring the law to the people.

A woman I met when I was still a teenager was fond of saying that people could not be held accountable for the views of their time, but that they could be held accountable for their own views. I accepted this for a good long time, but finally I abandoned it. Are we really to say that Thomas Jefferson and a modern day redneck are the same, just because they both share the belief that blacks were inferior to whites? I don’t think so. It is no different than anthropogenic climate change: 15 years ago a reasonable man could deny it, but not today.

21st Century Genghis Khan

If Genghis Khan is to be presented in a film, he can’t be presented as he actually was. No one would like him. The film takes place in the 12th century, after all. There must be some compromise with the time we live in.

Mongol doesn’t do this by changing events in the life of Genghis Khan; it does it by focusing on the good and noble things he did, like offering Jamukha freedom (but, unlike in the movie, Jamukha would not take it and so was killed). What it doesn’t show is all the indiscriminate killing and genocidal campaigns. But hey, what’s most of the Persian race between friends? According to Mongol, Genghis Khan was just a guy who cared deeply about conservative social values.

The Film

The film itself is shockingly engaging. It is beautifully shot and moves gracefully from epic battle scenes to the most intimate personal moments. The only bad thing about the film is that the subtitles are worse than usual.

[1] Braveheart fails completely at the end. It is true that Wallace was tortured to death. It is not true that this was done because he wouldn’t submit to the crown’s authority. Wallace was more of an intellectual who tried to get foreign support for the Scottish cause. I think all of the inaccuracies regarding Wallace’s character stem directly from the tortured soul of Mel Gibson.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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