Review: Tulip Pan (2008)

Tulip Pan (2008)

Directed by: Sergei Dvortsevoy | 100 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Tulepbergen Baisakalov, Ondasyn Besikbasov, Samal Yeslyamova, Askhat Kuchinchirekov, Bereke Turganbayev, Nurzhigit Zhapabayev, Mahabbat Turganbayeva, Amangeldi Nurzhanbayev, Tazhyban Khalykulova, Zhappas Zhailaubadiev, Esentai

‘Tulpan’ means ‘tulip’. The flower, which has long been one of our largest export products, does not originally come from the Netherlands, but from Kazakhstan (and China). The story goes that he ended up in the Netherlands via Turkey (where the flower was also found) and Antwerp. On the Kazakh steppe, the beautiful tulip is a rarity, as are nice nubile girls, which are almost even rarer.

Kazakh newcomer Sergei Dvortsevoy took four years to make ‘Tulpan’, his feature film debut. It was shot in the ‘Hunger Steppe’, where life is hard and austere and the landscape as vast and desolate as a sea of ​​sand. Tormented by strong, sharp winds, scenes sometimes had to be replayed twenty-five times, which is a good illustration of what it really is like on the steppe. A reality that the brand new director knows how to convey well. The film style is dry and direct, almost like a documentary. In some ways the film is reminiscent of ‘The Story of the Weeping Camel’: same kind of setting, same primitive living conditions, it even features a camel. In this film, the scene with the camel is a hilarious highlight, the animal is chasing the local vet, who is transporting her sick child in the sidecar of his motorbike. Touching, but also very funny. Humor plays an important role in the film, although it is not a comedy, as for instance the films of Kusturica, where ‘Tulpan’ is reminiscent of in the distance. Dvortsevoj is much more humble and humble in his use of cinematic means, which works out well here.

‘Tulpan’ does not offer any major surprises in terms of content, however. Nevertheless, the film was awarded the prize of ‘Un Certain Regard’ at Cannes. The jury praised it for its powerful direction and good acting (often the result of strong directing). In Cannes they are undoubtedly right on these points. Dvortsevoj’s film stands firmly on two legs, which is certainly admirable for a debut. The actors are amateurs (do professionals exist in Kazakhstan?) and act themselves. Their playing is convincing and natural, but again: we’ve all seen it before. The pace, the humor, the characters, you have to feel like it. Many, especially young people, want to get away from the hard and sometimes boring life in the inhospitable steppes, where the wind and drought have the upper hand. There is not much more choice than to become a shepherd and that is precisely the reason why Tulpan does not want to marry Asa. That Asa does want to stay (for the time being) is to his credit, but it remains a fact: life on the Kazakh steppe is not for everyone and that also applies to this film about it.

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