The Mark of Cain (3 of 4)

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  The first murder every committed was when Cain murdered his brother Abel. Cain was a farmer; Abel was a shepherd. God approved of Abel’s sacrifice and disapproved of Cain’s. Cain was jealous and angry and killed his only brother. When confronted by God Cain responded: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In a feeble attempt to hide his terrible sin from an omnipotent God. God put a mark on Cain so that he would be known everywhere he went as a murderer and regarded as an outcast. 

 And that’s just a breakdown of the title.    

 This powerful documentary explores the world of Russian prison tattoos from the many different perspectives of various criminals. Covering generations from the beginning of WWII through 2000 when the film was made, it depicts a convoluted image of regret, shame and ultimately a destroyed society.  

 As a historical prison documentary this should not be surprising as a depressing film. What will surprise you is the incredible eloquence of the prisoners. No one person is the focus of the film, all of their identities are less important than their criminal records. However, their faces and weary eyes speak of shame beyond even their shocking articulacy. 

The documentary really does everything it should. It is short, which I love (short movies get bonus points from me). Yet it doesn’t glimpse at things. It stares. The Mark of Cain slides a little off-track at points as a tattoo themed pieced, but it’s for the sake of pointing out the prisons injustices. Things like four years for murder and ten for theft; with over-crowded cells and months of solitary confinement, of course the food is mentioned and the list goes on.   

It’s not an easy film to watch, it has some horrible things in it. But it’s fascinating to see the group of people living with “The Mark of Cain.” Some wear it proudly as a right of passage on the way to becoming a “Godfather” type figure, others a shame so strong they’ve burned it off with cigarette butts and cut it away with butcher knives.

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    • Dianne
    • May 31st, 2010

    well said–

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