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Tulpan

Year: 2008
Production Co: Pallas Film
Director: Sergei Dvortsevoy
Writer: Sergei Dvortsevoy

It's interesting to see the American hero's journey aesthetic applied to cultures and regions around the world. On paper this is the quite innocuous story of a young man hoping to marry a local girl but hamstrung by his station in life, put upon by his older brother in law who leads the small extended family and with few prospects.

But shot in the windswept palette of the Central Asiatic steppes it's given visual dimension and a glimpse of another world we've never seen before. To capture some of the sights we see on screen (like the willy willys drifting across the landscape behind the family's huddled yurt and the baby walking where he's supposed to across the dust), director Dvortsevoy would have taken his script in hand, set up a camera, and waited.

When he comes home to rural Kazakhstan from a stint in the Soviet army, Asa goes to visit the family of the reputedly beautiful but never-seen Tulpan to ask for her hand in marriage. Tulpan, he is told, doesn't like him because his ears stick out.

Asa figures if he can work his way up to have his own sheep herd Tulpan will respect him and agree to marry him. But with his impatient brother in law constantly putting him down he has little chance of escape.

Asa toys with the idea of joining his friend in leaving for more prosperous climes, and they spend many hours in a clapped out water delivery truck plastered with cut outs from soft porn mags playing Rivers of Babylon on cassette at full volume dreaming of a better life.

The camera caresses the landscape lovingly, and while the emotional journey isn't anything you haven't seen before, it will broaden your horizons about another culture seemingly rooted in a bygone era.

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