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4.3 out of 5 stars
Tulpan [DVD]
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 November 2009
I enjoyed this film, which took me into a completely new world (one in which I would not choose to live!), that of sheep farmers on the Steppes in Khazakhstan. Asa, back from military service in the navy, wants to settle as a sheep farmer, get his own flock, live a happy family life. His brother-in-law Ondas, who is a shepherd working for the local boss, does not think much of him, and to be able to get a flock Asa must marry - but the only available girl locally, Tulpan, will not have him (he has big sticky-out ears, and that appears to be the problem, even though he can prove by means of a magazine cutting that Prince Charles's ears are bigger- and he's a prince, albeit, they believe, an American one). Asa does his very best with the sheep, but he is inexperienced and rather inept, and it does not turn out all that well for him.

The film is in many ways absorbing and even delightful. This comes mainly from the landscape of the Steppes, beautifully filmed, the huge skies, the strange lifestyle of the small family on whom the film centres, some songs, stark realism in the birth of stillborn sheep and a little perhaps unintentional humour ('There is too much pornography in this tractor!' says Ondas, arguably justifiably). It is also certainly the only film in which you will see an entirely credible episode in which two men on an ancient motorbike with a bandaged immature camel in the sidecar are followed and harassed by the camel's mother. I enjoyed it and found it fresh and certainly very unusual. I'm sure it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a good film and well worth a look.
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on 14 February 2010
A very romantic insight for life in Kazakhstan "steppe". Sadly for non-russian speakers, you will be missing some really funny bits as: the main hero, sailor, is mostly speaking russian (as he spent his life in Sakhalin Island, Russia). He hardly understands his native Kazakh language, and being unaware what Tulpan told to her parents about his ears - until his brother-in-law rudely informs him, interrupting his phantasy on their way back to Onkas' "jurta". In contrast, all the family speaks Kazakh (except the woman, sailor's sister, who is equally fluent in both). Its supposed to be manifestation of disrespect from Onkas who is annoyed with this "useless" addition to his family.
Its a very entertaining watch, but a bit sweetened up - even a giving birth ship is shown beautifully. A boyish look at cruel "steppe", an impression of the young man who does not want to say bye to his dream.
Tulpan is obviously "Tulip" in english- it explains why the sailor who never saw this girl (only her hair and hands) when falling in love, draws tulips everywhere.
To see this movie or not - it depends on how much you are interested in life somewhere else. When it was shown in Durham, there were 5 people who decided to go to see it - certainly not a hit locally. Sadly.
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on 9 June 2010
This is a fantastic meditation on isolated Nomadic life. The characters are portrayed delicately yet contain a vast amount of depth, and the story itself is incredibly touching. I think most of the characters are not well established actors which actually in turn makes for a more believable, and documentary-like feel to the film.

You will not regret this purchase!
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on 11 September 2011
I loved every minute of this film. I imagine this is how life has been on the Steppe for thousands of years with very little change. I think this film shows how similar we all are and it matters not where we live. Modern and 'developed' cities like London, New York, Paris and Beijing present each of us with the same challenges that a family on the Steppe face. The existential questions about our finding our place in life, family issues, love, separation, work, birth and death are all there on the Steppe too. There's also quite a few funny moments too.

If you've enjoyed this film, you may like to have a look at these two films as well but note that 'The Warrior' has quite a bit of strong violence in the film.

The Story of the Weeping Camel [DVD]

The Warrior [DVD] (2001)
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on 2 July 2010
Thru out the film, I kept wondering where they got these wonderful actors. Unlike other movies with a similar setting - "Cave Of The Yellow Dog" or the even better "The Story Of The Weeping Camel" - this seems to use trained actors. The director, in an interview at the official website for this film, calls them "actors". And they were new to this setting and had to learn to live the life of a sheepherders on the steppes.

However, the director has a special talent with non-actors, too. Many scenes included a young child of about 3 or 4 years old and several animals. The integration of them into the scenes were nothing less than perfect. There's a memorably funny scene with a veterinarian with a motorbike and sidecar - and a baby camel wrapped in bandages - and a large mother camel - that had me wondering how it could possibly have been filmed. I thought that several times, too, during the film.

The plot about the young man returned from a stint in the Russian navy trying to marry the attractive only-marriageable-female-around is actually the B plot. And is almost expendable. What turns out to be the A plot is the young man's effort to prove a competent sheepherder to his stubbornly impatient brother-in-law. Our evesdropping on the life of this family living in a yurt with the camera patiently following the activities of the people was fascinating to me.

The scenes with the free-spirited family friend who has a tractor with a boombox playing loudly and girlie pictures hanging in the cab provided some of the most energetically fun scenes.

My interest flagged occasionally - usually at the marriage attempts - but the rest made the whole film worthwhile. Not as starkly beautiful as "Weeping Camel" or "Yellow Dog", but still striking, with a good story that mostly evolved during the filming, and some fine actors -- human and otherwise.
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on 8 October 2011
A simply delightful tale of life as a shepherd on the harsh and waterless steppes of post Soviet Kazakhstan. Poor guy tries his hardest to win the girl of his dreams, and acceptance by his much older and more experienced brother-in-law, but only succeeds in the latter.
A wonderful Arthouse/World Cinema film in Kazakh/Russian with sub-titles ----- which if anything adds to the enjoyment of it.
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on 24 June 2014
It was a unique experience for me to watch this film, as I was born and spent my early childhood in the Hunger Steppe and now am living in England not too far from the abode of Prince Charles who gets a brief mention in the course of the story. Long time ago I was the child with a tortoise in my hand playing in the dust...
All I can say is that the film is brilliant!
It is done in an HD realism, beautifully shot, very touching, sweet and sour. Understandably, a large portion of the audience is going to find it boring, because that's how life in that part of the world IS.
Life in those places is hard, barren, plain, raw, dusty, thirsty. It is naive, honest, spacious, open, yet, full of love and humour and hope too.
I'd highly recommend this film as a clear view window into a completely different world, as well as for its artistic qualities. Maybe it is just me, but it made me feel good too.
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Wham! Every so often a film comes along that hits you right between the eyes. Film making does not have to be complicated. A simple tale, well acted and beautifully filmed in the vast emptiness of Kazakhstan's southern Hunger steppe, hit all the spots for me. I can only find praise for this wonderful little vignette of a shepherd's life on the windswept steppes, and can find nothing to be critical of. That the director Sergei Dvortsevoy was a documentary film maker comes as no surprise. But the assured way in which he handles his first feature certainly does. He comes from a long and distinguished line of ethnographic film makers which have their origin with the great Robert Flaherty, who directed such classics as "Nanook of the North" and "Man of Aran". The last being a great favourite of mine! These films still set the bench mark today. The recent "Atarnarjuat, the Fast Runner" and "Ten Canoes", both excellent films, followed in this tradition. "Tulpan" continues to fly the flag proudly!

A young man having just completed his naval service with the Pacific fleet returns home to his brother-in-laws yurt with hopes of becoming a shepherd. But he struggles to adapt to the harsh way of life. He has even forgotten much of his Kazakh language and speaks in Russian. He is like a stranger in his own land, a square peg in a round hole. His brother-in-law despairs of him. The bright lights of Almaty beckon, but the haunting beauty of the land holds him in thrall. Against all sense he battles on, and his native land continues to weave its magic on him. We also follow his amusing courtship of the shy and beautiful Tulpan. To be a shepherd he needs a wife! But the elusive Tulpan is not so easy to court!

At the start of the film the young man Asa describes from a moving vehicle how beautiful his native land is. The camera pans around to views of endless, seemingly featureless flat steppes. You immediately begin to have doubts as to the veracity of this statement. But the director shows us over the course of the film how truly beautiful this area can be. There are a number of scenes showing dust devils weaving their way across the steppes in a dance as memorable as any by Darcey Bussell. Then we have donkeys racing off aimlessly into the emptiness, and never has a dog chewing a bone been filmed to such an awe inspiring backdrop. Look out for that scene! It is clear that many hours must have been spent waiting to film these natural phenomenon. But the film is also rich in humour, which lifts it above other films in its genre. In one scene our hero visits Tulpan's parents, after finding out from a previous visit that she thought he had big ears. To disprove this he produces a photograph of Prince Charles, saying that if this foreign prince has bigger ears than him, then his must be okay. The parents ask if the prince is from Africa, and they reply "no he is from America". It is a very funny scene. Much funnier than anything in that Borat film!

The film observes the herders customs meticulously and the actors give wonderfully natural performances. How they managed to get the small children to interact so well is a mystery to me. Perhaps the films strongest message was just how powerful the pull of your own birthplace can be. Personally I know that I miss the Wiltshire downs if I am away from them for any length of time. Perhaps, if sometimes grudgingly, most of us might admit an affection of some sort for the land we grew up in. It exerts an unseen tidal pull! On the collar of the sailor's uniform is an idealized scene of his homeland. It can only be seen when the collar is turned up and shows camels, sheep, horses and yurts underneath the stars of the immense steppes. The explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard who was part of Scott's fateful expedition to the South Pole said at the end of his epic book "The Worst Journey in the World", "If you march your Winter journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin's egg". The same could be said of our Kazakh shepherd!
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on 5 July 2017
A film I shall buy. I enjoyed it immensely, it was very relaxing to view and have time to think in the mode of the story, as person in a community, the earth community.

I shan't say anymore, I would recommend it and shall not only be buying it for my video home collection, but it's going to make a great present for winter holidays.

A real dream of a movie.
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on 10 January 2011
I watched Tulpan out of curiosity as I get a little tired of the cinematic fare from the West that is often served up. This is an extraordinary film and an insight into a way of life in Kazakhstan that may disappear in the not too distant future. It is unfortunate that so many people's introduction to that country is through Borat, which is a great shame. The use of camera is outstanding as we often have time to savour the bleak landscape, which is a permanent back drop to the story and action. The picture quality is outstandingly clear and sharp. In one sense there is no soundtrack to this film, even though it is 5.1 audio. Whatever sounds you hear, whether it is the wind, someone playing a radio or one of the characters singing a Kazakh song, there is no clutter. Indeed this film has no clutter in it. I won't spoil the story for you, but the life of the shepherd is tough and there is no room here for a sentimental view of shepherding. This is a bargain at £5.
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