The Fall of Otrar

Four arduous years in the making, Ardak Amirkulov's 1990 historical epic about the intrigue and turmoil preceding Genghis Khan's systematic destruction of the lost East Asian civilization of Otrar is a one-of-a-kind experience. Amirkulov's film, shot in sepia-toned black-and-white, is at once hallucinatory, visually resplendent, and ferociously energetic, packed with eye-catching (and -gouging) detail and B-movie fervor, and traversing an endless variety of parched, epic landscapes and ornate palaces. But The Fall of Otrar is also an astute historical film, and its high quotient of torture and gore (Italian horror genius Mario Bava would have been envious) is always grounded in the bedrock of realpolitik: when the Kharkhan of Otrar is finally brought before the Ruler of the World, he could be facing Stalin, or, for that matter, any number of modern CEOs. The Fall of Otrar is written by Amirkulov's former teacher Alexei Gherman and his wife, Svetlana Karmalita.

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