Monday, October 12, 2015

Fedor Bondarchuk: '9th Company' / '9 Рота' (2005)

Fedor Bondarchuk's 9th Company / 9 Рота (2005) takes us on a war tour in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, from the perspective of Soviet Red Army troops. It's a fascinating movie. Yes, true, we've seen much of this kind of thing before in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Pork Chop Hill (1959), Go Tell the Spartans (1978), Gallipoli (1981), Heartbreak Ridge (1986),  Full Metal Jacket (1987), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), and so on, but this time it's with Russians and other peoples of the Soviet Union, fighting in Afghanistan in modern times -- where, indeed, even now US and Allied troops are still fighting thirty years later. I am always thrilled to see variations on a typically American theme, done internationally with a few twists.
9th Company does the usual trick of bringing recruits through basic training -- here with their "comrade drill sergeant" suffering from post traumatic stress previously garnered "in country" in Afghanistan. He doesn't mince words when there's a problem: "This is a real fuck-up, soldier." By the time he's done with them, they're ready for war. They've also gotten to know "Snow White," a prostitute who works at and near the training camp. One of the soldiers, an artist, calls her "Venus emerging from the sea."  
The next phase of 9th Company is set in the Afghanistan war zone proper. Afghan Army troops ("the greenies") are depicted as not very reliable allies (sound familiar?). The Soviet soldiers face the shock and surprise tactics of "the muj" (mujahideen), including ambush, landmines, and decoys; and their escape tactics, utilizing holes, caves, tunnels, villages, dust and darkness. The Soviet recruits join seasoned veterans, who the viewer may more quickly feel empathy for, because they seem more like fully developed adults rather than dimwitted youth.     
9th Company doesn't sugar-coat the misery of campaigning in Afghanistan, nor the violence of combat.  Definitely worth checking out. 

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.   


Charles Gramlich said...

That would be really interesting from the Russian perspective. I'll have to see if Lana can order this for the library.

Adorably Dead said...

I agree with Charles, the foreign aspect does make this more intriguing to me than a normal war movie.