December 27, 2009

See: Tulpan

Sergei Dvortsevoy's narrative film debut opens a window onto the lives of a family living on the Kazakh steppe. Asa, fresh from a stint with the Russian navy, attempts to assimilate back to the land. He lives with his sister and her husband and their three children in their yurt. He's out of place; when we first see him he's in his sailor's uniform attempting to woo Tulpan, the only single woman in the area. The dry desert spreads out around them; sandstorms rage off and on. It's an inhospitable place, made no more hospitable by the contentious relationship he has with his brother-in-law.

A documentary filmmaker, Dvortsevoy is unafraid to let the camera linger, and Jolanta Dylewska, his cinematographer, is adept at capturing the action as it unfolds. Some of the best scenes occur as characters move in and out of frame, performing their daily tasks. A woman churns milk, the men herd sheep, the children sing and listen to the radio and pretend to ride horses. The rhythm of their existence is the rhythm of the film, and the film develops according to their lives. It's a keenly observed film, and I was captivated both by the characters and the landscape they inhabit.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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