The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

I AL­WAYS like a good re­vi­sion­ist biopic, and Mon­gol (Satur­day, 7.25pm, World Movies), a Rus­sian epic di­rected by Sergei Bo­drov, is one of the best. At the height of his power, Genghis Khan held sway over more of the earth’s sur­face than any other sin­gle con­queror be­fore or since, rul­ing most of China and large slabs of what is now Rus­sia, In­dia, Afghanistan and Tur­key. His name was syn­ony­mous with rape, pil­lage and plun­der. Bo­drov’s film por­trays him as a visionary leader and so­cial re­former who left be­hind an en­light­ened le­gal code for the Mon­gol peo­ple, set an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of skil­ful ad­min­is­tra­tion and was also, for good mea­sure, a fan­tas­tic lover. He’s played with heroic dig­nity by Ja­panese ac­tor Tadanobu Asano. For sheer spec­ta­cle, Mon­gol ranks with Sergei Eisen­stein’s Alexan­der Nevsky, and has ap­par­ently been spared the fate of an­other of Eisen­stein’s films, Ivan the Ter­ri­ble, which was banned by Stalin as a veiled at­tack on the KGB.

The Lives of Oth­ers (Thurs­day, 8.30pm, World Movies) un­folds dur­ing the twi­light of com­mu­nist rule in East Ger­many. The place is ruled by the Soviet ap­pa­ratchik Erich Ho­necker with all the trap­pings of a mod­ern to­tal­i­tar­ian state. Po­lice in­form­ers are ev­ery­where, and sup­posed en­e­mies of the state are rounded up on the light­est sus­pi­cion. Any­one who has read Anna Fun­der’s Stasi­land, her chill­ing ac­count of the work­ings of the East Ger­man se­cret po­lice, will know what to ex­pect in Flo­rian von Don­ners­marck’s film. Or will they? The cen­tral fig­ure is a Stasi agent (Ul­rich Muhe), an un­think­ing pup­pet of the regime who comes to doubt his loy­alty. It’s an in­tri­cately plot­ted and deeply sat­is­fy­ing film, charged with sus­pense and with a clear eye for the hor­rors of the time.

Those same hor­rors — hu­man fear and frailty, be­trayal, treach­ery and para­noid sus­pi­cion — were the sub­ject of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Cru­cible, in which the evils of McCarthy­ism were thinly dis­guised as a para­ble about the 17th-cen­tury witch­hunt tri­als in Salem, Mas­sachusetts. Miller adapted his play for Ni­cholas Hyt­ner’s film, The Cru­cible (Thurs­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Drama), which has mem­o­rable per­for­mances from Wi­nona Ry­der as the hys­ter­i­cal Abi­gail Wil­liams and Paul Scofield as Judge Dan­forth, per­son­i­fy­ing the forces of ig­no­rance and re­pres­sion. The Manchurian Can­di­date (Thurs­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Ac­tion), an­other story of warped am­bi­tion and po­lit­i­cal para­noia, has Liev Schreiber as Sergeant Ray­mond Shaw and Meryl Streep as his mon­strous mother, a pow­er­ful US se­na­tor with dark de­signs. The vil­lain this time is a sin­is­ter multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tion in­stead of the com­mu­nist ca­bal in the orig­i­nal story. Any­one with mem­o­ries of John Franken­heimer’s bril­liant 1962 film, with Lau­rence Har­vey, will won­der why the re­make was needed.

Critic’s choice

(M) ★★★★✩ Thurs­day, 8.30pm, World Movies

(M) ★★★✩✩ Satur­day, 7.25pm, World Movies

(M) ★★★ ✩ Thurs­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Drama

The Manchurian Can­di­date

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