July 30, 2015
Movie of the Week: The Horde (2012)
The Horde is a historical epic that deals with medieval Russia and its dealings with the Golden Horde. The movie can be seen in Russian for FREE here:
But if you wanna see it with English subtitles it will cost ya:
Still, it’s worth the $3.99, because here come the spoilers.
This being a Russian movie, it’s obviously packed with allegories that take a bit of effort to unpack. So, from the start:
The medieval Russia is really contemporary Russia (or maybe actually the Russia of the ’90s), a not truly sovereign country which has to pay tribute to the Horde, also known as the United States of America. For that it’s worthwhile to look closely at how the Horde, its organization, policies, and dealings with others are portrayed, because it represents a certain view of the contemporary United States as seen from the outside. If you keep that in mind, the process by which the Horde’s khans are rotated (which happens twice in the movie) will probably cause a chuckle or two–it gives the oft-heard phrase that US presidential campaigns are cut-throat politics a new meaning…
But the Horde has a problem: the khan’s mommy goes blind. Again, a woman and a mother of this importance is not “simply” a woman–she represents the (American) nation as a whole. A nation that has lost its power to see and, presumably, tell right from wrong. Therefore numerous and hilarious (in a grim sort of way) attempts to have her regain eyesight ensue, until the khan has the bright idea of summoning Moscow Metropolite Aleksey to attempt a miracle cure. As an incentive, the khan threatens an invasion unless Aleksey succeeds.
In process, Aleksey goes through hell (or is it purgatory?–and note there is a very similar scene of fiery torment in The Island which also precedes the miraculous intervention), but in the end khan’s mommy sees again (not entirely clear, from my perspective, what did the trick–divine intervention or the example of Aleksey’s suffering?) and then grows utterly detached and indifferent to the political goings on within the Horde, to the point of failing to give one of her sons, the next khan, her blessing. That symbolic action comes across as the withdrawal of popular support for the elite, especially since we are told that in only a few years the Golden Horde, torn by internal conflicts, will go down in defeat.
That the Horde represents not the West but only the US is indicated by the fact that there are largely hapless Europeans (some things don’t change) at khan’s court who are pretty much his prisoners even as they plead for
better TTIP terms the Horde not to invade Europe. And they too get rescued by Aleksey who gives them a horse (also a metaphor for popular support/legitimacy) so that they can return to their homelands.
Overall the thrust of the movie is the same as The Island’s. The West has lost its way but it can be cured by emulating Russia and adopting its values. Is that a far-fetched claim to stake? It may seem so right now, but let’s wait until the next major US/EU financial crisis (because we all know it’s coming) and see how it impacts the West’s politics. Because whatever the West is doing right now is unsustainable, no more than the Horde’s policies were.