Top positive review
88 people found this helpful
on 15 February 2005
A couple of positive reviews kindled a desire to try this little film out. After it became apparent that it wasn't going to appear too soon in any local rental establishment, I took the plunge and ordered the disk. This turns out to have been one of my very best DVD acquisitions - and if you get a copy, you'll be delighted to own it, too.
My wife was reading when I first put it on: this was actually my strategy to avoid getting blamed if, on telling her to watch it, it turned out as obscure or inaccessible as it might at first sound. She did actually ask what I was going to watch as I loaded it.
"Er, it's a little film about some Mongolian herders in the Gobi Desert and their camels, Dear..." I offered sheepishly (and not inappropriately).
"...right..." she hemmed, returning to her book. The film started.
As the credits rolled some time later, I turned from my riveted position facing the TV. My wife was staring wide-eyed at the screen, a huge smile on her face, moisture in her eyes.
"That was absolutely fantastic!" she exclaimed.
It is. Far more beautiful than any of your over-hyped Crouching Dragons, or whatever - deliriously so, in fact, and all the more exquisite for being so real. Simple and exotic at the same time, The Weeping Camel establishes how utterly alien we all are and, at the same time, how very, very similar.
It begins with astonishing, eyeball-searing landscape and lifestyle shots that look like Luke Skywalker's home planet, with creatures from Hoth imported from the sequel (were they Bantus?). The desert looks and sounds bleak, wild, glowing and glorious. Its inhabitants (and their clothes, their habitat, their food, their songs) are both ordinary and inexpressibly glamorous.
Not too many minutes in, though, and you realise that this family is just like us; only more in tune with the humans and animals with whom they cohabit. Although the central tragi-comedy is that of the abandoned calf, the story is very much about how the people live and where they might go (the young lads are campaigning for a television when they aren't crossing the desert to fetch batteries and a violinist) - and, ultimately, about the poetic, magical, musical treatment the family finds for its ailing fellow-creatures. The depiction of the forsaken calf's plight is as poignant as the very best of Disney (and actually far less manipulative). The resolution: well, you need to see and hear it for yourselves. You won't regret it.
It really is a gorgeous piece of work. And what a nice technical surprise for us, too. Having treated ourselves to digital widescreen and fab surround-sound in the Christmas aftermath, we were busy going through the spectacular back-catalogue (Gladiator, Star Wars, West Side Story and others) to "justify" the home cinema spend. Guess what! It's the Weeping Camel that makes the best sense of giving cinematic craftsmanship maximum domestic reproduction: the pictures - of a landscape with little intrinsic variation - are endlessly gorgeous. The soundscape is just awesome: the unending wind, the interior acoustics, the cries of the animals, Odgoo's (the mother's) song to her sleep-creaky daughter, the music (including violin-strings played, Aeolian Harp-style, by the wind through a beast's fur) - utterly brilliant. Inside the tent with the family, the recording is so true that the dogs and goats sounded as if they were outside the room in which we were watching (itself also swept by that constant, fluting, roaring, raucous wind).
Everything you see and hear, everything that happens - you wonder (and rejoice) at how such artists were there with perfectly-placed cameras and mikes to help us look, listen and share. Such a simple little film, such stupendous cinema!
You've probably gathered that I can't recommend this highly enough.