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Dense with the realism and light humor of daily existence, Tulpan at times has the feel of a documentary, yet it is a touching fictional tale about finding one’s place in the world.
Asa returns from naval service and has expansive dreams of a free and prosperous life on the Kazakh steppe. For them to come true, his brother-in-law must give him a starter herd, he must find a wife in a desert devoid of humans, and he must earn his stripes as a herder. Asa is impatient, does not fit in, and seems powerless to realize his dreams. When he is pushed to the brink, ready to give up on his dream, he has a transforming experience of life and rebirth.
Dvortsevoy films with a patient eye (Tulpan took four years to film), turning the gritty landscape into a character in the film, helping to convey the utter isolation (but not hopelessness) of life on the barren steppe. This is a quixotic and delightful tale of self-discovery that offers a vivid look at what life is like in this secluded corner of the world.
Reviewed in Russian Life: May/June 2009