From Russia with…Terror

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Marco Piaia, SJ

 Marco Piaia, SJ / Film & TV / Published Date:13 October 2021/Last Updated Date:14 October 2021


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From Russia with… terror! This altered title encapsulates the main features of Shadow and Bone, a dark fantasy set culturally and scenically in the boundless expanses of Siberia. Unlike Game of Thrones (set essentially the early Middle Ages without Christianity) and Harry Potter (where the magical world is a sort of parallel to the Muggle one), in this series the orthodox Christian world and the culture of the Russian Empire at the beginning of the 19th century provide the background to the events narrated. These are based on a literary saga, the Grisha Trilogy, by Leigh Bardugo.

It is a world in which terror and darkness are “real,” and darkness has a physical reality. It divides the world and generates monsters; in short, it involves a common enemy that must be defeated by uniting  forces opposed to it. Well, that would be the most logical thing to do.

But there are those who prefer to exploit this power, such as General Kirigan (Ben Barnes). He is a hero and anti-hero at the same time, with whom the protagonist, Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) falls in love, as occurs in all self-respecting TV series.

La Civilta Cattolica

It is a world with the magic and expansiveness of fairy tales. The problem, however, in this case is whether all these legends have an element of truth. One of the strands of the narrative is the decline of the Grisha (sorcerers in contact with nature) and the reduction in importance of their magical arts, which are replaced by the progress of technology. This is the reason why the fronts are not united. To ensure the survival of the wizards it is necessary to create something that only they can control and that makes their presence indispensable. The plot thickens and is not clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys or, at least, the motivations of both are left open and debatable.

The world created by Bardugo is full of violence, deception and struggles for survival. Here, perhaps, the real magic comes from wanting to go beyond the limits of power to establish deeper bonds with your own history and the friends you meet on your travels.

This is yet another historico-fantasy production from Netflix. It can be recommended because it is well supplied with special effects and narrative twists, as well as with the lives and evolutions of individual characters. It will not fail to arouse curiosity in the viewers, enticing them into a momentous journey to the mysterious and unexplored lands of the fictional East.