CLOSE TO EDEN
DIRECTOR: NIKITA MIKHALKOV
COUNTRY: CHINA/MONGOLIA 1992
MUSIC: EDUARD ARTEMEV
CAST: Badema, Bayertu, Vladimir Costukhin, Baoyinheige, Bao Yongyan, Wurinile
SUPER FEATURES: The country side and the story.
This film was one of the nominees for the OSCAR's FOREIGN FILM Award this year. And it is a worthy candidate, that stands out as a special film as it does very quietly, and slowly, what only the likes of David Lean have been able to do. Tell a story where the country
itself is the story. Few film makers have been able to get the setting to come alive, a veritable desert full of mirages and thoughts that keep one coming and going.
Using all Mongolian actors, it is the story of a family that farms in the middle of nowhere land, and they have their habits and ways of doing things. Their style of lovemaking, or at least of chasing for lovemaking, is literally the old Mongolian way.... a real chase on horseback, which unfortunately for Gombo, is in violation of the new Chinese laws that limit the number of children. But Gombo, as old fashioned as he is, and unable to come to terms with the present commodities of childbirth control (he is a country boy and she is a city girl....) at least maintains himself long enough until he is ready to burst out. He can't find the answers he is trying to find on his way to town, to trade for what he has to offer, but the town's ways with religion and drinking also have nothing to help him with. He returns empty handed ready for another chase, his only real love being the woman he has married and the wild country.
The acting in this film is either total, or it is a dedicated job to showcase some very strong people that live in incredible at odds with nature itself. It is smooth, moody when it has to, and well designed by a director that knows the difference between the use of space and camera to display to us, their dilemmas... very much theatre style, only alive instead of staged. The distancing between people is a measure of their ability to understand or communicate.
While the film stops short of saying anything about this way of life, it does suggest that modernization is about to destroy the myths and the legends of this once proud and great people that were systematically dismantled by both the Chinese and the Japanese in this century. But if the new life of modern creatures is coming, it has no hint of the wild life that these peoples had lived. The town is structured in such a way as to make things difficult to get done, the priest is too busy praying, the doctor is too busy dating, and the Russian visitor is too busy drinking, all a statement on the frustration of life these people have and suffer in their everyday existence. Gombo is not about to let this get in the way of his feelings.
He returns, and while he does not bring from the town what he was asked to bring, he does bring with him a certain vivacity and explosive
desire, which the wife, at first upset, but then defiant immediately takes on to. It doesn't matter that the Chinese have rules.... these are the Mongolians....... and the ending is very nice and leaves us rather excited and happy. The modernization did not stop those two from creating another child, and it neither did stop their desire for each other.
Wonderful film. Long shots, trying to remind us of the beauty of a pristine country, the once proud culture of the Mongols.
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