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Close to Eden --- Urga. A film by Nikita Mikhalkov

by Mingan Choct

The movie URGA was shot around 1990/1991 in Hulun Buir Aimag, Inner Mongolia as a joint production by France and the former USSR (Images France/Studio Trite USSR). It was produced by Michel Seydoux and directed by Nikita Mikhalkov. This movie was the winner of the best film at Venice Film Festival 1991 and was an Academy Award Nominee for best foreign language film in 1993.

Having married a city girl, Gombo continues the simple life of a shepherd deep in the Mongolian steppes, with his wife Pagma, two children and a grandma. This is part of China, Inner Mongolia, and the rules are no more than two children in the family, which is the core for the simple plot. Gombo and Pagma are played by Bayartu and Badma from Inner Mongolia. Bayartu is a horticulturalist turned actor and Pagma is a professional music theatre actress. You would never know it from their performances, which are endowed with an appealing reality and charm. This can be applied to the rest of the cast but especially to Vladimir Gostukhin, as truck driver Sergei, who becomes deeply involved with the rural family through and accident. This opens door for Gombo to make a trip to the city, where his wife wants him to buy condoms and a TV set. Here fantasy and surreal events mix in a such way that it becomes an immensely realistic portrayal of the life of modern day Mongolian herdsmen living in Inner Mongolia: Bicycles replacing horses, TV pictures substituting nature's landscapes, Chinese replacing Mongolian and mines replacing majestic grassland, etc... ...

The film can make one think of the simple, evocative things of life and to realise, as with the happy Mongol family, that the spread of modern civilisation is the most destructive force.

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