Friday, June 17, 2011


I love a movie that takes me to a place I've never been and exposes me to a culture I don't know.  It's nice when such a movie tells a good story, too, but if it doesn't, well, that doesn't mean it's a total waste of time.

Tulpan is one of those movies.  Asa lives on the steppes of Kazakhstan with his sister and her family.  He's ready to start a life of his own, but the only single woman in the area, Tulpan, repeatedly rejects him.  He holds out hope, for her and for a better life for himself, in the hopeless setting of the steppe.

I didn't get too caught up in this slice of life story, but I did enjoy the realistic portrayal of these steppe dwellers.  It's hard to imagine a bleaker landscape.  No features in any direction.  No trees, no hills, no buildings, just open space with their hut and stables set up in the middle of it.  Throughout Tulpan I found myself thinking of Abraham in Genesis.  Surely this life is not much different from Abraham's, living in a tent out in the middle of a plain, keeping livestock to get by.

Asa's family herds sheep, and the film is full of other animals running around.  The sheep play a pivotal role.  Several are stillborn, but Asa accidentally tracks down one of the pregnant sheep who had wandered off and assists in a successful live birth.  That's something you don't see everyday: an actual live animal birth on film!  A beautiful thing.
The vet of the steppe with his animal transport.
The animals provide some of the humor, too.  At one point, a vet comes by with a camel calf in his motorcycle side car.  Apparently the mother has followed them from wherever he picked up the calf.  When they move on, the vet motors away with the mother camel loping after him.

So don't expect much tension or development when you watch Tulpan.  It's there, just very low-key.  But if you're curious about life in pastoral Kazakhstan, Tulpan is an enjoyable treat.

Bottom line, 2 1/2 stars.

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