User Reviews (23)

Add a Review

  • From Pasto,Colombia-Via: L. A. CA.; CALI, COLOMBIA &ORLANDO, FL

    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

    If you don't know what TULPAN means in English, you will after watching the film. And yet, they never translate it for you...You have to figure it out for yourself! Sometimes, unfortunately, it seems that particular talent is fast becoming a lost art among U. S. movie-goers. Take a film like TULPAN, which is so simple, so unpretentious, and yet, manages to show us things in life that are so delicate and complicated! ***May Contain a Minor Spoiler or Two!*** What motivated me to give TULPAN a look? Certainly not the IMDb Blurb, it really misses the mark!

    No, my decision was based on a truly accurate, quality review. Originality is something to be prized and praised in a movie. You know how rare it is to encounter a film with something totally original to offer. TULPAN has at least 5 elements that I don't recall seeing in any other cinematic work! Without them, 6 or 7* more than likely would have been my rating...But I'll add 1/2* for each original element, bringing my rating up to 9*. So, What are these elements?

    1) ALL the actors in TULPAN appear using their REAL names!

    Maybe you're thinking you've seen a few other films like that. Well, in ALL the others I remember like this, the production values are horrific and the acting worse. Here the acting is so natural, so oblivious to the camera, it lends a "Slice of life" feel to the production.

    2) Have seen movies in dozens of different languages! Kazak is not one of them. So, TULPAN is my first in this language related to Turkish.

    3)Have you ever seen mouth-to-mouth respiration administered to a newborn calf in a movie? Not just once, but several times by two different actors!

    Elements 4) and 5)....? Let's keep the last two elements a surprise. (Although my alternate title above should give you a hint.) Sheep-herding on the Asian Steppe is anything but exciting. TULPAN REALLY drives that point home. If you're not willing to sit through movies where the pacing is, at times, excruciatingly deliberate, but that reward you in the end for your patience...This is not for you. If you like windows into new and exotic cultures, check TULPAN out!


    Any comments, questions or observations, in English or Español, are most welcome!
  • Winner of the Un Certain Regard award this year at the Cannes Film Festival, the fast disappearing world of nomadic sheep herders in Kazakhstan is dramatized in the part fictional, part documentary film Tulpan. Directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy, Tulpan is the story of an ex-sailor seeking to marry the only available woman in the area to fulfill his dream of tending his own flock. The narrative, however, is secondary to the dramatic on-camera birth of a lamb and the spectacular scenery of the steppes. Much of the film takes place in the tent house called a yurt that is shared by Asa (Askhat Kuchinchirekov), his brother-in-law Ondas (Ondasyn Besikbasov), his older sister Samal (Samal Yeslyamova), and three children.

    The smallest boy is an absolute delight running and shouting as he plays with sticks and his pet turtle. His older brother has the uncanny knack of repeating the news broadcasts he hears on the radio word for word, reciting recites them daily to a curious Ondas. The only shrill note in the film is the constant high-pitched singing of Asa's niece Maha (Mahabbat Turganbayeva) who sings the same drone-like folk song six or seven times. As the film opens, Asa, his best friend Boni (Tulepbergen Baisakalov), and Ondas visit the family of Tulpan, a young woman whom they want Asa to marry. In southern Kazakhstan, the terrain is so forbidding that a herdsman must have a wife to do the chores while he tends his sheep and Ondas considers Asa too irresponsible and immature to be a herdsman without a wife.

    At the family gathering (Tulpan is not present) Asa makes up stories about his adventures in the Russian navy and how he fought an octopus in a life and death struggle. Tulpan's parents, however, are unimpressed and later tell Asa that their daughter (who is never seen in the film) has rejected him because his ears are too big. How she might have known that is not made clear but it leads to a comic comparison of Asa's ears to a picture of Prince Charles. Discouraged, Asa threatens to leave the steppe and move to the city with Boni but is reluctant to give up either his dream of marrying Tulpan or learning about animal husbandry.

    As Asa tries to prove himself to Ondas whose herd of sheep is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths, he assists in the birthing of a lamb and meets his severest test. Tulpan is a natural showcase for the region and Cinematographer Joly Dylewska captures the swirling dust and the stark landscape with striking success. One of the best scenes is that of a bandaged camel placed in a motorcycle sidecar by a veterinarian (Esentai Tulendiev) while the mother paces in the background. Not a dry National Geographic Special, Tulpan has ethnic and pop music, adorable children, moments of wicked humor, and an unforced naturalism that is captivating.
  • The fact that this film won almost every award it was nominated for is of little consequence to the average film goer. It is about life on the Central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan. Yes, that Kazakhstan, but without Sasha Baron Cohen.

    Life here is very hard. There is not a tree in sight, and the wind whips the dirt around mercilessly. Asa just returned from his tour of duty in the Russian Navy, and we hear him tell his potential in-laws of the things he encountered. He is after the hand of Tulpan, the only available bride in the area. He wants to settle down and raise sheep, but he must have a wife. No deal. She thinks his ears are too big, but I believe it is mama that wants her to do more than just be a wife who cooks and cleans and has babies on the steppes.

    Asa keeps trying to win her as he tries to become a shepherd. He is not doing well at either.

    The funniest part of the film is the vet. You can't describe what he does with a cigarette, but you have to see it.

    It won't win any popularity contests, but it is worth seeing.
  • What does a young Kazakh man like Asa (Askhat Kuchencherekov) do when he leaves the Russian navy? He looks for a bride and plans to settle down to a life of herding sheep on the Hungersteppe (Betpak Dala) of Kazakhstan. The only available bride is Tulpan who he sets out to woo. He resists his friend Boni's attempts to get him to head for the cities.

    Kazakh documentary maker Sergey Dvortsevoy has brought us the acclaimed feature film Tulpan. Its flat, dusty, dry plains are reminiscent of parts of outback Australia but are even more remote. The movie was shot 500 km from the nearest city Chimkent. It is harsh and unforgiving with powerful dust storms dominating the environment.

    Most of the interior scenes take place in traditional tent houses called jurtes. The family is close in every sense of the word. Asa's sister Samal (Samal Esljamova) and Ondas (Ondas Besikbasov) and their three children share their home with him. Some of the most touching scenes involve singing within the intimacy of the family group.

    The tiny domestic space is not the only cause of tension. Ondas is particularly tough on his brother-in-law Asa, perhaps because of the incredibly strong bonds between brother and sister.

    Like the lives of the local people, the making of the film revolved around and evolved with the lives of the sheep. Dvortsevoy explains on the official website:

    "The crew spent two weeks just following sheep. In the third week, we tried several times on video to understand what camera movements should be used when the sheep is giving birth. Once the camera crew was technically ready, we waited for one of the thousands of sheep to give birth. The shepherd had a radio station and would call us as soon as one was ready.

    When the scenes were shot, I understood that they are so unique and powerful that I had to adjust the rest of the film to those scenes rather than adjusting them to the script. From that on we opened the film to the experiences we made in everyday life and let them influence the story-building. In the end the film grew like a tree and many things were unpredictable."

    The karakul sheep from Central Asia have been controversial: "... it could refer to the fur of newborn Persian or karakul lambs or it could refer to broadtail fur taken from fetal lambs (or generally refer to both)—but whatever its exact definition, astrakhan boils down to one thing: early death for lambs, often even death for fetal lambs and their mothers." 'Astrakhan: Hot "New" Fashion is the Same Old Cruelty'

    The birth scene is the most gripping moment of the story. The website has a full explanation.

    One small criticism: the shaky hand-held camera work was sometimes unnecessarily distracting.

    It's easy to see why Tulpan has been hot at the film festivals. Superlatives are hard to avoid: original, raw, authentic, genuine, funny, joyous, honest.

    Dvortsevoy has restored respectability to the term reality. In fact it is hard not to think that this is a documentary at times. These people couldn't really be actors. It's great to see the potential of the movie medium stretched in such powerful ways.

    Cinema Takes:
  • Tulpan (2008) was directed and co-written by Sergei Dvortsevoy. This film was co- produced in five different countries, but filmed primarily on the Central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan. The movie is basically about unrequited love, but it has the feel of a documentary. (Tulpan is one of those movies where the first thing you do when you return home is to check out its country of origin in Wikipedia!)

    Boiled down to basics, the film is about Asa, who has returned home to Kazakhstan after serving in the Russian navy. Now he wants to find a wife and settle down to the nomadic life style that apparently still exists in this harsh and unforgiving landscape.

    Asa loves the beautiful Tulpan, whom he has barely glimpsed and we never see. While he is courting her he lives with his sister, her husband, and their three children. Asa apparently was a good sailor, but he's not really adept at the skills needed for life on the steppes. His brother-in-law wants him to leave, his sister wants him to stay, and Asa can't decide what he wants to do, or even what he'll be able to do.

    I know very little about life lived in a yurt on the Asian grasslands. As this life is portrayed in the movie, it's not meant for dreamers or amateurs. People speak of the harsh beauty of the landscape, but I don't see it. (Well, I see the harsh part, but not the beauty. To me it looks cold, dusty, dry, windy, and forbidding.) Our species is very adaptable, and it's no surprise that a lifestyle has evolved that allows humans to survive in this environment. Whether Asa will choose that lifestyle, and whether he will survive it if he does choose it, are at the heart of the plot.

    At the heart of the movie are the images of the Steppes of Central Asia, and the few rugged people who live there.
  • Funny, real, reach, sad and inspiring! I was really shocked watching this movie! There are not many movies in Post-Soviet space, which can show us birth of a new creature with such a courage. The delivery scene of the film, which is a culmination of a film is a catharsis creating moment.

    The dialogs and monologues are great. I watched the film in Rissian and the dialogs were the brilliant reflection of folksy mind, always practical, straight but magic at the same time. The best monologue of the former sailor, who is the leading star, opens the film.

    The scenery is great. The space of a film is very informative. There are many little details that tell us about the steppe life without any words, such as steppe tractor, which is decorated with glued naked women's pictures, radio set, which the shepherd's son always keeps in his hands and many other.

    And the message of the film which brings the leading star, who is impetuous and reckless at the beginning of the film, but later on he becomes wiser, is very simple and traditional. You can build castles in the air as long as you want, but to build them on the land you should make many little steps every day. And to reach a goal you should be not only persistent but adaptable and be capable to forgive your nearest and dearest.
  • Any film that depicts cultures that are mostly unknown here in the west are always a welcome one for me.Kazhak film maker, Sergei Dvortsevoy's 'Tulpan' is another one of those cinematic open windows. This gentle fable concerns a young man named Asa,who has just been released from the Russian Navy,and yearns for a wife,so he can be a right & proper shepherd. The fact that there are a lack of young women presents a problem. Asa,with the help of his friend tries to convince the parents of the last young woman,Tulpan (whom we never see on camera),that he is the man for her. Tulpan's parents are not impressed with Asa's tall tales & tells Asa that his ears are too big. Asa lives with his sister,Samal,her mean,brutish lout of a husband,Ondas & their three children. There are several sequences of Asa & Ondas dealing with the on going problem of lambs being born dead,as well as other problems. Sergei Dvortsevoy,who is generally known for his documentaries,directs & co writes (with Gennady Ostrovskiy)his first fictional film that still manages to convey a documentary feel. The unvarnished photography of Jola Dylewska depicts the harsh & breathtakingly beautiful landscape of the Kazakh steppes. Does Asa ever manage to get to Tulpan to ask for her hand in marriage? It's up to you to find out the answers to this & others. Comparisons to films such as 'Nanook Of The North',as well as 'Atanarjuat:The Fast Runner' will pop up. Spoken in Kazakh & Russian with English subtitles. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains some profanity & some scenes that could upset young children involving an on screen birth of a lamb,and some dead lambs depicted on screen.
  • Another film from Kazakhstan, but unlike the NYFF's 'Chouga,' far from being set in the newly rich urban part of the country. Dvortsevoy, a successful documentary filmmaker, chose to make this, his first feature, in the ethnographic mode, among shepherds in the Betpak Dala, the steppe, a region of scrubby grass, dirt, flatland, whirling wind storms and stormy skies. The technique is to work in near-wilderness, among non-actors, with nothing but camels or donkeys or rugged trucks to travel by, surrounded by a herd of sheep and a few goats, living in a yurt. The method and setting resemble those of Dava and Falorni's 'The Weeping Camel,' but the focus this time is not as anecdotal and the story raises fewer troubling questions. It's still not certain that the effect of "authenticity" means the events we're witnessing truthfully depict life in the steppe. But the sense of trying to adapt to a harsh environment and culture is powerful and the landscape is awesome, and the sheep births we witness are unquestionably real.

    The protagonist is Asa (Askat Kuchinchirekov). He is a young sailor who's just finished his military service who comes out to the "Hunger Steppe" to live with the family of his sister Samal (Samal Eslyamova), headed by her husband, an older man, Ondas (Ondasyn Besikasov). Sailors draw their dreams under the lapels of their uniforms and Asa's sketch shows the plain with a yurt, children, camels, and the sun shining. Apparently he is from somewhere else (it's not clear how his sister got to be Ondas' wife) but he doesn't want city life, he wants to make his paradise out here. He dreams of prospering as a shepherd, doing so well he can buy solar panels to put on his yurt so he can have electricity. His pal is the nutty Boni (Tulepbergen Baisakalov), a transport driver whose truck is plastered with magazine photos of nude babes and who plays loud pop music as he drives madly across the plain. It's Boni who first brings Asa to the yurt of Ondas and who dreams and schemes with him.

    Driven by Boni, Ondas takes Asa more than once a day's ride to a family who have an eligible daughter, the beautiful Tulpan (Tulip), whom the suitor only glimpses. She watches behind a screen. At these interviews Asa has an unfortunate tendency to dwell on a story about how he successfully fought an octopus. It doesn't seem to go over with Tulpan's aged dad (Amangeldi Nurzhanbayev ) or her mother (Tazhyban Kalykulova), who apparently has listened with a sympathetic ear to her desire to go off to college. Tulpan says she doesn't care for Asa, anyway, says his ears are too big. End of story. Ondas says that if Asa gets a wife, he can have a flock of his own, and only then. But there are no other women around. Tulpan becomes little more than Asa's dream, like the idyllic yurt and flock and prosperity and happy life. What can Asa do? Well, he can find a lost pregnant sheep and assist in its giving birth to a healthy lamb. But he still is very ambivalent about whether he wants to stay and face Ondas' disapproval or strike out for Sakhalin island as Boni wants or go to the capital, Astana, where there are probably jobs--and eligible women. But what stands out in 'Tulpan' is Asa's dream--the little picture under the collar of his sailor jacket that seems to draw him back every time he packs up his little valise and starts to go away.

    Dvortsevoy populates his landscape and the yurt with noisy characters to break the sounds of silence and the roaring winds. Samal and her daughter Nika love to sing at the top of their lungs, with sometimes pleasing, sometimes grating effect. Beke is a little boy with a great memory who listens to the radio broadcasts in Russian and can recite the national and global and cultural news verbatim on Ondas' command. Ondas himself is often barking out harsh commands. There is the smallest boy, who runs around chirping and laughing all the time riding a wooden stick, an indomitable spirit and perhaps potentially as nutty as Boni.

    The omnipresent sheep of Ondas' flock seem to be too often growing weak and dying. A vet (Esentai Tulendiev) has to come in with Ondas' boss to assess the cause: he decrees that the animals are not sick (or poisoned by chemical waste like the ones in the Naples region), buy just hungry. The yurt has to be moved to better grazing land.

    This is an Arte co-production. It's not a great film by any means; it's technical aspects are minimal. But some will be impressed by its vividness. Asa is a winsome character and there are moments when the wind and the sky create a wild poetry. The sheep, in all their noise and disorder, fill the screen powerfully too. This may have been designed to be seen on television but it is powerful on a big screen.

    The film won the Un Certain Regard Prize--Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema, 2008, and is part of the NYFF.
  • Tulpan is very similar to Kusturica's movies, because as in his films, animals play in Tulpan their role too (not the actual animals, but more the sounds they make) and the humor is equally situational, equally great. Tulpan is about a boy, who wants to get married, dreams about his goals, has family and friends in a kazakhstan prairie. Of course, not his goal is important in the movie, but the way, how he tries to achieve it. Except of folk songs there is no soundtrack, the background is always filled with some kind of mooing, bleating rutting of some kind of animal. When I realized it (after an hour), I found it extremely ironical. Except of this, you can hear some funny tip-offs and pictures of every-day life in the prairie, which seemed to me rare, primitive and kind of funny. Although I discovered the idea of the movie quickly, and I saw it many times before, Tulpan shows it much more original.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A double free pass to Tulpan accompanied tickets I'd won to another film. The previews of Tulpan I'd seen weeks before looked interesting enough but sadly the film failed to excite or satisfy. The location is dull, drab and dusty to the extreme. Liked the main characters sister, disliked her Ghenghis Khan like husband. The friend who drove the tractor wore very thin, very quickly. So for me this part film, part documentary labored to make it's point. For me it was like going around in circles and was really 2 hours I'll never see again.

    When so many good films of many origins fail to get commercial release I'm at a bit of a loss why this film did. Or why it's won as many awards as it has.

    2009 motto "beware of PR agencies bearing unasked for free movie tickets"

    Postscript... nearly 2 weeks I'll make an early nomination this will be my worst film of 2009. 2nd worst Easy Virtue also another preview freebie. But back to Tulpan it was a excruciating..excruciatingly laboured and slow.
  • The life on the Kazakh steppe must be one of the hardest in the world, at least if its depiction in this film is anything to go by: a world of arid plains, dust storms, and post-Soviet motorised transport that moves no faster than a camel can walk. 'Tulpan' provides a heart-felt depiction of this life (one really feels one understands the people's love for the animals on which they depend after watching it); but is also full of sly, silly comedy, the story of a sailor who dreamed of becoming a shepherd. However, there's not much dialogue, and at times it could have done with a faster pace. But it's a nice insight into a world away from that which most of us live in.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I watched Tulpan for the second time last night. It seems to me the movie is really about how different people react to wrenching changes, mostly by nursing a fantasy of some sort. Among other things Tulpan documents the _current_ way people and sheep use that steppe, which under the surface isn't very nice.

    As the "yurt" is a touchstone with the past, it's commonly retained even though it doesn't actually make much sense any more. These herdsmen move very infrequently (if at all), and these yurts are typically surrounded by outbuildings that look pretty permanent. What good really is a moving house if you don't move?

    The person who insists Asa must be married before getting any sheep is "Comrade Boss" (not brother-in-law Ondas - Asa and Ondas have their differences, but the assignment of sheep is not among them). Ondas and his family cannot move without approval from the Boss. The Boss controls the only veterinarian and most of the vehicles. The Boss tells Ondas he's responsible for every stillborn lamb. All this adds up to the current economic pattern in that area: herds of sheep belong to non-resident owners, who "contract" their care to the actual herdsmen. The herdsmen live sort of like their ancestors, but don't actually own most of the sheep, seldom move, and don't have all that much freedom.

    Daughter Beke (and also to some extent her mother and Asa's sister Samal) appear to cope with the dichotomy between the idealized life and the actual life of a herdsman's family by rather defiantly singing lots of folk songs. Perhaps the folk songs are just the most visible sign of fantasizing the old ways.

    Tractor driver Boni survives the dichotomy by diving deeply into a fantasy pastiche of music, sex, and wealth. He's the conduit to the "outside", and so is more worldly than the herdsmen he serves. But by more objective standards he's woefully uninformed too. At one point he speaks of bypassing the city and going directly to Sakhalin Island. Never mind that Sakhalin Island is in a different country thousands of miles away through several other countries.

    Asa appears to survive the dichotomy by remaining completely unaware of it. He admires a solar panel in a magazine, without ever realizing no herdsman could possibly afford such a thing. He admires a motorcycle in the magazine too, but without ever reflecting such a thing would be useless without a reasonably accessible supply of gasoline. He compliments Tulpan on wanting to go to college at the same time he wants her to marry him, without any sense that it might be difficult to do both. The scene he draws on his collar is of an idealized herdsman with healthy children (not the half-crazy kids he actually lives with), his own herd of sheep, more wealth than any real herdsman ever had, and the freedom to move wherever he wishes whenever he wishes.

    Brother-in-law Ondas clings to the old ways even though they don't quite add up any more. He invests a lot of time and effort in quixotic visits to Tulpan's yurt that are doomed from the start. He doesn't know his "neighbors". Although they politely receive him, they apparently weren't ever expecting a marriage proposal visit and don't know quite how to deal with one. Ondas's gift looks like an electric light fixture -with lots and lots of little pieces to keep clean- intended for an elegant room. It wouldn't be of any use in a yurt with dust (and a little smoke?) and no electricity. And he talks of giving a large number of sheep too, never mind that the sheep don't seem to be his to give, or that talking of a large number of sheep in the context of marriage seems irrelevant.

    The scenic views of far away horizons and sparse vegetation portray what I'd call a semi-desert. Just try to imagine a "tulip" sprouting up between those tufts. If you can imagine it at all, it will look horribly out of place. Likewise the tulip Asa draws into the scene on his collar is in a different style and colors than the rest. It's added on, but not integrated.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had no idea what to expect from "Tulpan". I can't recall where in my movie trolling I'd decided to rent and watch it. Would it be one of those small, eccentric films with a quirky character in the lead? Those can work but I've been a little leery of them lately. The writer/director, Sergei Dvortsevoy, who is 47, is from Kazakhstan where Tulpan is set and has been involved in a half dozen films as writer and director. But I enjoy Russian cinema and Kazakhstan was once part of the Soviet Union so maybe… Kazakhstan is the world's largest landlocked country although it does border on the Caspian and Aral Seas. The steppe where the film takes place is the largest dry steppe region in the world and the film offers dramatic vistas of this flat, flat plain where people have lived as nomadic herders for centuries and continue to raise sheep, goats, camels in one of the least densely populated regions on earth.

    Asa, the main character, has come home from his duties as a sailor in the navy. He hopes to arrange a marriage for himself with the help of his sister and brother-in-law with a local girl he's never met, Tulpan. There is much delicious dry humor in this set up. Asa hopes to set himself up as nomad, living his life in his yurt, scratching out an existence from the hard-scrabble land. The film beautifully portrays for us in almost documentary fashion the life Asa hopes to achieve.

    His sister's family is lovingly presented. His sister is beautiful and loves her daughter whose constant singing irritates the stern, hard working father, and her young son who gallops about pretending the stick he is straddling is like the horse his father rides. But the authenticity of the life presented here is documentary like and I mean that in the best possible way. The young boy appears to not to be aware of the camera at all as do all of the actors, camels included. So what we see seems a very authentic look at a fragile way of life.

    And therein lies another of the beauties of "Tulpan". As the attempt at arranging the marriage runs into roadblock after roadblock, we see how much Asa loves that existence. His brother-in-law wonders why Asa would choose such a difficult existence, given the choice. But Dvortsevoy, while showing the daily life and death struggles a herdsman must endure, is also able to demonstrate why someone would do whatever to live a rich life in such a beautiful yet primitive place.

    I can't recommend "Tulpan" highly enough. See it if you can. I have a feeling what has been captured here will not be around for much longer.
  • The disappearance of characters is not new in the film. Sita never appears in Aravindan's movie "Kanchana Sita" . Sita is the backbone of the story of Kanchan Sita. Aravindan is searching nature through Sita. The popular film "Tulpan" directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy tells a similar story. Released in 2009, the Qazakh film has won numerous awards, including the Cannes. Tulpan is the first full-length story by Dvortsevoy. Dvortsevoy is investigating human life and human trappings through the Qazakh Steppis. Only Asa and his sister, Samal, and brother in law Ondas, his friend Boni, and Ondas' three children are in the movie. Then there's the infinitely spread steppi. The movie starts from the scne in which Asa visiting the house of Tulpan, the supposed bride. Asa is rejected by the girl saying that Asa has big ears like Prince Charles. The steppe shepherds live a very lonely life. Their lives go on with the life of the sheep. Every little impression of a sheep affects the life of the shepherd. Tulpan is a symbol. Every young man in the steppes dreams which cannot be fulfilled. Even Boni, who is always desirous of leaving Steppi, is unable to escape the steppi's bond. Bonni, who owns a large collection of nude photos, is not alone in her quest to go to town. The pics that Boni keeps are his obsession with the city. Boni's attempts to escape to the city every time fails. Despite the failure, the rays of success still seek them. The victory for Ondas is also for Asa and Boni. Asa will be joining us on the journey of the Ondas and Samal from the makeshift shed to the house, and the film gives us hope. Boni alone is disappointed. Sergio Dvortsevoyis shows us human dreams for a better life seldom fulfilled. The film takes us from dreams to the harsh truth of reality.
  • The Russian filmmaker Sergey Dvortsevoy had gained a reputation for documentaries, but in the 2008 TULPAN he tries his hand at fiction with this story set in Kazakhstan. After serving in the Russian Navy, Asa (Askhat Kuchinchirekov) returns to the Kazakh steppe, living with his sister (Samal Yeslyamova) and brother-in-law (Ondasyn Besikbasov) while he tries to court the only unmarried young woman within hundred of kilometres.

    As a sort of documentary, TULPAN will be an interesting experience for viewers in the West, capturing the desolation of the Kazakh steppe and the hard work that herders there must do to eke out a living. Some of the younger characters feel the draw of the big city, whose modernity offers them an easier life than the dull steppe. As a linguist, I found that the film represented well the Russian-Kazakh code-switching common after the Soviet era, which only underscores how these people feel torn between two worlds. The arguable climax of the movie comes with Asa assisting the real-life birth of a sheep, which is depicted realistically so that the audience learns something, but thankfully not too graphically.

    But as fiction, I am less impressed with the film. I get the feeling that Asa's pursuit of Tulpan was the centre of the original script, but was mostly set aside after Dvortsevoy decided to improvise much of the film. The result is a lack of substance outside the pure observation of traditional life. All in all, it's worth seeing once and you'll learn something, but it's no classic.
  • sai-mdi4 October 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    After a long time saw a movie that made me feel like floating in a different realm of dreams. It's so realistic yet fascinating. Without showing the Tulpan in person the story builds around hope, failure, dreams so artfully! I wished this movie to be longer. And add on to that the beautiful songs sang by the kid and her mother, deserts have millions of stories to tell. May be its just a particle of sand that got drifted to we viewers through Sergei's lens. Still i believe Tulpan's character could have been introduced with more touch points so that the strength of the plot would have been more touchy. Asa faced very few challenges in the story to signify the importance of Tulpan in his life. It's a beautiful movie, its just that i'm still greedy for a lengthier version of it.
  • Sergei Dvortsevoy's Tulpan is a really mature and really quite fascinating mediation on a young man's angst, as well as his apparent unrequited love; life as a Kazakh farmer living in rural nowhere; contemporary culture clashing with more classical stances and the telling of a great friendship between two young men. The film at once recalls the work of Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, specifically, both the sorts of material combining with the very specific aesthetics applied to two of their films in 1998's Taste of Cherry and 1996's Gabbeh, respectively. Similalrly, it owes a great deal of debt to some of the Italian neo-realist works of the 1940s and 50s; the film coming to resemble as much an articulate tale about characters going through transitions and suffering hardships as it is a raw and uncompromising depiction of life in the barren locale in which it's set. Where something like De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves may have used causality, plot mechanisms and catalysts to drive its lead through a story set in a world which would eerily double up as echoing its own frightening reality; Dvortsevoy, here, draws on similar approaches and depicts life set amidst a Kazakh locale known as 'Hunger Steppe', as those whom inhabit it just seem to fall in to proceedings.

    The lead is a certain Asa (Kuchencherekov), a young man in his twenties recently discharged from the Russian Navy, returning to what we presume to be a locale similar to his own roots so as to rendez-vous with his sister Samal (Esljamova); a woman living with her husband Ondas (Besikbasov) and three children in a small tent-like structure on their farm. Dvortsevoy's film is a bare-all look at life upon this locale, when particular characters are rounding up cattle and a large whirlwind of sand and dust kicks up nearing itself to the livestock, that's a true-to-life event captured in its rawest form on film and incorporated into the text going on to not only affect the characters we're identifying with, but doubling up to outline life as it is in this exact zone. Tulpan unfolds in a locale in which the sands and outback of the place surrounds the farm in all directions, while expansive hills and mountains spreading all the way out to the horizon provide the place with an intimidating and surreal edge, as if there is nothing in any direction for several hundred miles and you're cut off in precisely where you're based. That sense of being trapped feels prominent, so much so that when one character expresses his wishes to expand one's position in life to broaden out elsewhere, that agonising and desperate sense of it having little chance comes about.

    Asa and his tractor-driving; all singing, all smiling Boney-M loving friend Boni (Baisakalov) look to elevate their positions in life, the film beginning in the small tent of a neighbouring family as Asa pines for the titular Tulpan's hand in marriage, she being the daughter of a wealthy, land-owning unit. The pair of them linger on magazines detailing certain pieces of American iconography such as expensive land-cruisers to replace worn out farming vehicles; modern apartments to replace minute make-shift tents and the golden gate bridge to replace the searing travelling in a single direction for long stretches of time across sand and nothingness. The two boys are very much a part of a newer, more contemporary Kazakh mindset of elevating their positions in the world; building to the ownership of more grandeur things and climbing the proverbial ladder you might say formulates something resembling The American Dream. Ondas, whom represents a lesser contemporary, more classical mindset, stands in opposition to this thinking pattern; the notion of he being of a generation brought up prior to independence whilst still under Soviet rule feeling prominent.

    In the mean time, Asa wants to own farmland; Tulpan's unwillingness to take his hand in marriage the only thing stopping young Asa from living his dream and that notion of whether Asa wants to effectively marry into her family so as to attain this or whether he genuinely loves her as who she is, is neatly captured by Dvortsevoy. The severity of the situation is highlighted to the lead during the opening few minutes when, following the attempt to come to some arrangement with Tulpan's family, Ondan points out that there are no longer any women left for Asa to marry. Not that this deters the man, his prolonged attempts at wooing Tulpan, whom more often than not is either kept off screen or whose face remains elusive to proceedings, veers the film away from its pseudo-documentary roots that are combining with light comedy anyway, and into doomed romance and a far bleaker tone. It is revealed Tulpan's family are careful in whom they select to marry their daughter and whilst it is her future being discussed, Tulpan is relegated to peering through beaded strings formulating a make-shift door as her father in the business management field instigates a class war into the film by rejecting what is effectively a 'pitch' on behalf of Asa and an extension of his family.

    All of these ingredients are woven into the film rather spectacularly, if one were to stagger away from the film feeling as if it is like nothing one has ever seen before, then the chances are it will be because such approaches to such material have rarely been explored within such a locale as the expansive, desolate, barren terrain of a vast Kazakh steppe. This Kazakh, multiple award winner and Foreign Language Oscar representative culminating in a really quite engrossing and rather eye-opening account of dreams; trials; tribulations; clashes, of both a generational and class related nature, as well as a rarely depicted lifestyle brought to life in the most arresting of fashions.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of the reasons I like to watch movies from around the world is too observe the different locations, be they city or country. A while back I watched "Tony Manero", shot in Santiago Chile, in which the city setting was about the most desolate and depressing locale I've ever seen. The setting in Tulpan is certainly desolate, but it's not depressing. Having lived part of my younger life in places like that, it's almost uplifting.

    As are the cast. Samal Esljamova is one of the beautiful women I've ever seen. The kids are delightful - Maha the singer, Beke the news reciter, the little one who seems to enjoy taunting and annoying Beke. Beke seems to be the only one aware of the camera - I had the feeling that if the camera wasn't there, the little one might have received a few clips across the ear-hole.

    Boni is funny, and the episode with the vet is fascinating. I wasn't sure how scared of the mother camel the cast really were, but it certainly seemed real enough. The little touches were done so well - the relationship between Tulpan's parents for instance - the stoic mother, the father trying to exert his authority and being studiously ignored.

    And then comes the climactic scene, the birth of the lamb. Both this, and the previous scene in which Ondas attempts to revive a dying lamb, were just riveting to watch. For sure, the actor playing Asa didn't look too excited by it all, but the realism couldn't be faulted.

    I thought this was a great film, a film showing that despite the differences in how we live, we all share the same burdens and joys and ambitions.
  • I was charmed, amused, and fascinated by this superb film. It manages to be so natural that it is hard to believe that the characters are in fact actors.

    The plot is unimportant, but the fly-on-the-wall look into the lives of a rare and wonderful people, in a rare and wonderful place - is priceless.

    This type of docu-drama would be highly beneficial as a teaching tool to history departments everywhere.

    I highly recommended this film, but certainly not for those whose appetite is limited to the usual dose of Hollywood mind candy; action, special effects, violence, sex, and schmaltz.

    There is a haunting and charming quality in this film that held me every minute right to the end. It is up there in my top 50 movies of all time along with Babette's Feast.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Most of the first hour or so of this movie was dull, boring and unnecessary...if not for my wife asking me questions, I think I would have fallen asleep. I must admit that once we got to the point of the film where sheep are birthing their lambs that the film began to pique my interest, but by then, I really couldn't care less about the characters, and wanted it to end.

    Also the insistent, braying, bleating, etc. of the different animals was extremely annoying and irritating, as was the kids when they would be loudly singing off-key. I'm sure this was intentional, but irritating nonetheless.

    I know this film got superb reviews, which is why I rented it in the first place. But why? Because it showed a slice of life that few of us ever see? That's the only thing I can think of. And if so, make a documentary about it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Kazakhstan is one of those dusty Central Asian countries left over from the break-up of the Soviet Empire and probably best known in the West as the putative birthplace of Sasha Baron Cohen's media clown Borat. In this film the documentary filmmaker Sergei Dvortsevoy goes some distance toward giving us westerners a taste of real life amongst shepherds on the steppe. Fresh out of the Russian navy submarine service, Asi goes to stay with his sister Samal and her sheep herdsman husband Ondas. Despite the isolation, wind, dust and extreme temperatures, Asi dreams of having his own flock and settling down. But Ondas refuses to help him with the flock until he finds a wife, for a single man cannot be a herdsman. The film opens with Ondas negotiating to marry Asi off to Tulpan, the daughter of a neighbour, but Tulpan, who remains behind a curtain and is never actually seen, rejects him – "His ears are too big". Asi tries again, alas to no avail.

    This plot is really secondary to an account of what it is like to live and work in a place like this. Ondas's lambs keep dying and the vet is called (how is a mystery). He diagnoses lack of feed, so the family must pack up its Yurt and move elsewhere. Much comedy is provided by a young injured camel being transported in the vet's sidecar, followed by the camel's mother which bites anyone who gets too close. Ondas and Samal's three children also provide plenty of entertainment. The oldest girl sings a mournful folksong all the time, the older boy recites entire news bulletins learned from the portable radio he keeps with him, and the younger boy is just plain cute. Asi's tractor driver friend, with his collection of pin-ups in his cab, also provides some amusement.

    Life on the steppe is tough, but brings with it a certain amount of freedom. Modernity, in the form of the official news bulletins, parodies of the official style, is at a good distance away. The sheep flocks are big enough to provide a living as long as there is a demand for their wool. Ondas, a proud tough man, would not be happy living in a town. Samal might, though. Dvortsevoy does not idealise his characters and they are all the more appealing. However, I can't see the steppes becoming a tourist destination except for some very hardy travellers.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I loved the epic documentary "Saltmen of Tibet," so I am a fan of dusty low-plot movies about someplace I'll never go. But TULPAN was terrible! I can't believe I sat through the whole thing.

    The assault on the senses, the constant noise of that bratty kid singing, that other kid shouting, the wind, the camel stampede or sheep stampede . . . what a beating you take just sitting there! The hideous scene of the children vying for the privilege of squeezing blackheads on their father's back? Honestly! Too bad we didn't get to watch somebody squatting behind a clump of dry grass.

    The depressing anti-heroism of Asa, a fool and a liar. Thinks he loves/wants a particular woman because it turns out she's his last hope of getting a herd of sheep. Now THAT is a courtship.

    The falseness of the animal scenes and story lines. If those ewes are malnourished, you sure can't tell from their energetic behavior. So don't ask me to believe that's why they're losing their lambs. If they're so malnourished, why are the lambs carried to full term and coming out more or less the right size? And how come, since much of the action revolves around moving the animals to pasture, we never once not once see a sheep or a cow or a camel EAT anything? And what's up with that healthy ewe delivering a healthy baby needing assistance from the idiot? Baloney.

    One thing that came through so very clearly is the horror of being a woman on that steppe. Stuck with cooking, cleaning, children. Tulpan wants to go to college and her mother violently chases away the suitor, presumably to spare her the life she, the mom, has endured. Asa's sister and niece are in some kind of cahoots to torment Ondas. I have to believe the filmmaker understands what he is showing, so maybe this whole horrible experience was a kind of feminist critique of a dying way of life that can't breathe it's last soon enough.

    So disappointing! The trailer was so wonderful! :(
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For our group it was our 3rd visit to this "area", and out of the four of us, three found it was one too many. A few years back we started with "The Weeping Camel", having reasonably enjoyed it later on we also saw "The cave of the yellow dog" (I hope I got those titles right!) Then "Tulpan" came with such raving reviews that we had to see it too. Well we did and it was a little like a sentence. I couldn't say it was like watching grass growing for the obvious reason (no this is not a spoiler!) Usually though I enjoy revisiting places I "have been" before but somehow it did not work anymore for me this time.... and now this is THE SPOILER: it was not much different than the two previously mentioned stories. That's it - how long can you watch people living in a confine area where very little happens. Yes the panorama has something, yes it's poetic but no it's not for me anymore.

    When I read some of the reviews here or elsewhere I think of a funny event that happened at a local market where a man was demonstrating a gadget to get your car running at a high performance with little fuel. It was amazing and very convincing with a huge running engine being part of the demonstration. I did buy two of these gadgets! As I continued to wander about the market I bumped in something even more amazing...The same person was now demonstrating potato peelers and with the same verbal "dexterity"!

    Now, this could be another spoiler... There was a certain goat that made me ponder whether it could have had some very symbolic representations and made me feel that perhaps we, as an audience, were the subject of some of these representation. Perhaps it's safer to go and see some movies without reading too much about or keep a check on expectation. Perhaps it could be wise to check one's mood as well on the day if you have reason to believe that it could affect your perception. But first timers you should enjoy it because it still is special mm