Tuesday, 22 March 2011


"And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him."

The Mark of Cain is a documentary made in 2000 by Alix Lambert, focusing on the various aspects of prison life in Russia; the tattoo, its indelible place in the caste system that separates the Thieves from the bulk of the prisoners and its rapid decline among the prison population. Mostly shot in the notorious 'White Swan' prison outside of Solikamsk, the film highlights the process between sentencing and release, where men are crowded into cells of thirty to forty people with little more than off-coloured watery soup to sustain them.

More interestingly to me, it explores the relation of the tattoos to every day prison life, how it affects ones experience within the system and what the responsibility of certain tattoos entail. It describes the painstaking process of creating a tattoo gun, mixing the ink - made of soot or, if possible, charcoal, and urine - and the various stations one can hold simply by a mark on the skin.

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