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On the steppes of Kazakhstan, Asa lives in a yurt with his sister Samal, her husband Ondas, and their three children. Ondas is a herdsman, tough and strong. It's dry, dusty, and windy; too many lambs are stillborn. Against this backdrop, Asa, a dreamer who's slight of build and recently finished with a stint in the Russian Navy, tries to establish a life on the steppes. He, his friend Boni, and Ondas call on Tulpan, the only single girl in the area. The men talk to her parents while she listens out of sight. Her answer and Asa's later trips to talk to her form an arc of hope against the harsh land. Is this the place of Asa's dreams? What about the other lambs? Written by
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.
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