Over my years on this planet I’ve met a few people who have spent time behind bars. Something that I gleaned from their stories is that each person’s experience will differ according to their own character and their country of imprisonment’s philosophy on crime and punishment. In some countries you fear the prisoners and in others you fear the guards – and in others you get to fear the prisoners and the guards; Russia, which boasts the world’s highest prison population, is one of those countries.
The Mark of Cain takes the viewer behind the walls of a Russian prison and talks to prisoners present and past about their penal experience – it is riveting and sometimes painful viewing. The documentary’s inroad to Russian prison culture is the prisoners’ intricate tattoos, which chronicle their lives in an ink made from urine and soot. Interesting too is the prisoners – the interviewer really succeeds in finding their humanity – even the guy in the title shot who was locked up over a triple beheading.