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The little nomad girl Nansal finds a baby dog in the mongolian veld, who becomes her best friend - against all rejections of her parents. Only as the little dog, Zocher, saves the life of the youngest son, father and mother finally see his good soul. A story about a mongolian family of nomads - their traditional way of life and the rising call of the City. Written by
Will I be reborn as a person in my next life?
Come here, I'll show you something.
[dropping a palm-full of rice grains onto an upward needle]
[handing the needle to the girl]
Tell me when a grain of rice balance on the tip of the needle.
[dropping rice onto the needle for a while]
See, my child? That's how hard it is to be born again as a person. That's why a human life is so valuable.
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Spending time with the Batchuluun family in the Mongolian steppes - a simple, endearing family story
Off the bat, the film title "Cave of the Yellow Dog" is poetically applied (it could have been "The Adventures of Nansal and Zochor"). You'd notice the little dog that 5-year old Nansal found is not exactly 'yellow,' hence need not wonder about its color - simply be an 'invisible guest' to the everyday living of the Batchuluun family of five. Namely our little 'heroine' Nansal (Nansa), eldest of the three children, mama (Buyandulam Daramdadi) and papa (Urjindorj), little sister (Nansalmaa) and baby brother (Batbayar). There's also an older woman (Teserenpuntsag Ish, reminds me of grandmothers) with sage and 'caringness': her age-old wisdom felt as she told Nansal 'folkloric' tale and asked her if "one can have one grain of rice rest on the top of a needle." "Impossible," little Nansal answered her own curiosity about life after death. "That's how hard it is to become another person in the next life."
It may seem the film is at its own leisurely pace, absolutely no hurriedness. Everything so naturally happens. There is dramatic moments of suspense, brief as it may: will there be danger? When I heard Mama's heeded words to Nansal about her little brother, I can see she's quite distraught and distracted by Zochor being left behind. What an ominous-looking flock of vultures.
It's fascinating to watch the ritual of moving, which is a Batchuluun family activity where everyone chips in. Filmmaker Byambasuren Davaa ("The Story of the Weeping Camel" 2003) artistically shows us the integral process of dismantling the portable tent (yurt) they live in, spoke by spoke. Looking at the tent site from above, focus of the square slot insertions in the top ring for each rod - it takes concerted effort, indeed. The girls rolling up the rugs, packing off the little furnishings they have (even active little brother has a hand). Mama also has to round up the herd of sheep. Papa yoking up the cows to five carts full. Writer-director-co-producer Davaa knows how to convey the nuance and cultural sensibility of the Mongolian nomads. Little things and family togetherness sure mean a lot.
The editing language (how the story was told) optimizes close-up's, nature/landscape scenes vs. dialog. The implied plot progression with words heard off screen, followed with facial expressions on screen, especially Nansal's emotions, be it joyous or sad, come through lucid. For example the ending treatment - you'll like the way it's presented. It's not obvious - what we saw moments ago and what we get to see eventually suggests what may have happened in between - the outcome of things yet so fluidly natural. An effective cinematic storytelling. Heartwarmingly' we'd smile at how cleverly the expectation fulfills. Filmmaker Davaa is gentle and creative, full of patience and humanity. She has a charming way of delivering an endearing human story putting us at ease to accept the flow of things.
This may not have the high drama of Hollywood's "The Yearling" 1946, the fun and solid companionship in "My Dog Skip" 1999, the collie star in "Lassie, Come Home" 1943, or the child acting genius in the Swedish "My Life as A Dog" 1985 - but the premise of a little girl and her beloved stray dog somehow has an intrinsic mix of family values and parent-child lovingness irresistible.
The film is of German production, hence the title aka " Höhle Des Gelben Hundes, Die."
11/26/06 'Previous life. Next life. Present life.' Hints of philosophical drifts in Davaa's second 'docu-narrative' - Still thinking about "Cave of the Yellow Dog." At one point in the film: "What were you in your previous life?" little Nansa asked her mother. Remembering the beginning scene: we see from afar Nansa and her father burying their family dog. She is inquisitive, and papa said to her that 'no one really dies, just become something else in the next life.'
We're fortunate to be able to follow along with Mongolian filmmaker Davaa and her film crew (from Germany), capturing the family spirits of this five-member unit. They are not actors but truly the Batchuluun family. Cinematography is remarkably beautiful delivering the Mongolian grassy plains and vast sky. (Reminds me of "Close to Eden" 1991, a Russian film also with Mongolian landscapes and nomadic life.) And the music is wonderful, at times have strains liken to Philip Glass (as in filmmaker Godfrey Reggio's cinematic montage pieces). There's a peacefulness to it all - seeing nature and humanity so integrally co-exist.
If you'd like to spend some 'quiet' non-stressful time at the movies, try "Cave of the Yellow Dog." Check out the official site 'caveoftheyellowdog.co.uk'. From 'Director's Notes' we can gain insights to how Davaa came to create her film and the thoughts behind the stories she wanted to tell, including the tale about the fable of the Yellow Dog.
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