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Urga - Close to Eden (DVD NTSC)

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Studio(s): Ruscico, UGC, TriTe, Camera One, Centre national de la cinematographie
DVD Region: ALL

Theatrical release: 1991
DVD release: 2003
Sound format(s): Dolby Digital 5.1
Language(s): Russian
Subtitles: No Subtitles
Format: 4:3
Genre(s): Drama

Nikita Mikhalkov"s Urga - Close to Eden is precisely the kind of film. Through a lens both tender and humorous, the Russian director has triumphantly succeeded in capturing that elusive thing of what one calls, for lack of a better word, the beauty of life. Not only does every character in this film come across as being full of soul and spirit, to top it off, the story is also built up to anticipate sublime moments of epiphany. The two male leads of this multilingual film, though they seem to have come from different planets, essentially embody the same kind of nostalgia. At the beginning, we see that sex is being denied Gombo, a nomadic herdsman of the Mongolian stock, by his wife, Pagma, who has already had three children. Already their third-born, according to Chinese birth policies for ethnic minorities, would be penalized. But Gombo, fleshly urges aside, has a bee in his head that constantly reminds him of how great a tribe the Mongolians once were, and how Genghis Khan himself was the fourth-born. Moping about his hut, one day he hears a cry of despair issuing from the throat of one Sergei, a Russian truck driver who is "slaving aboard in order to live decently at home." Sergei"s truck has broken down, out in the wilderness of the steppes; a timely accident that enables him to befriend this Mongolian family. Urga is illuminated by the presence of an amazing child character. Mikhalkov sure has a way of showing how children mentally register the idiosyncrasies of grown-ups - that close-up shot of little Bouin, Gombo"s second child, popping his eyes out at seeing the tattooed back of Sergei, for instance. Beyond that point, the highlights of this film are many. The climax arrives with a surreal dream of Gombo, in which his ancestry comes alive through the magic of television. There is also a neat subversion of the travel-back-in-time fantasy in this film, in which Gombo, in going to town to purchase condoms, seems to have traveled forward in time. In reality it is really him catching up with civilization, or else civilization is catching up with him.

Awards and Nominations:
The main prize - Golden Lion in Venice Film Festival (Italy) in 1991
Golden Globe nomination in 1992
Oscar Academy Award nomination in 1993

Director:
Nikita Mikhalkov

Script:
Nikita Mikhalkov

Camera:
Vilen Kalyuta

Music:
Eduard Artem'ev

Cast:
Vladimir Gostyukhin, Badema, Bajyartu, Van Zyang, Vurinil

Producer:
Michel Seydoux, Leonid Verecshagin

Art Director:
Aleksej Levchenko