22
Nov 09

The Loudest Film Ever Made

Do You See + FT2 comments • 819 views

Spinal Tap does not go up to eleven. Crank could be cranked up a bit. Even a film like Transformers with its non-stop explosions and destruction does not come close to the new holder of this title. Enter the little movie that could, Tulpan from Khazakstan. Initially you would not peg this tale of nomadic sheep herding on the Khazak steppes to have the means to be that loud. In doing so you underestimate the natural sounds of storms, wind and very noisy sheep and camels. You also disregard the ear splitting volume of any motorised vehicle in this environment, and the associated increased volume of any music played to drown it out. And you are probably not considering quite how loud, and annoying, an eight year old child singing at the top of her lungs to deliberately irritate her father can be. All of this is deliberate in Tulpan, the noise just stresses the loneliness of steppes life.

Tulpin is a bit of an ethnographic film, which is often problematic. Whilst attempting to blend the fiction of an odd one sided love story with the realities of steppes life it invites the audience to make some judgements about this borderline lifestyle. These are modern people doing an ancient job with a few concessions to modernity, but not many. And at the heart of it there is a cultural issue. Asa, ex-sailor now staying with his sisters family, aspires to have his own flock. Demeaned by his brother-in-law, he cannot get a flock without a wife. There is only one eligible woman on the steppes, Tulpan, and Tulpanrefuses to be wooed. So there is a whole load of implicit sexism and it is easy to sympathise with Asa whilst also completely understanding why Tulpin might want to get out of ther (like the best Macguffins however, we never see Tulpan). The film meanders in and out of conflict, all of the time treating us to deafening, poorly sung, Khazak folk tunes paired up with earsplitting Boney M and it ends with a semi-conclusion which seems a bit out of place since All Creatures Great And Small stopped being shown. And yet for all the problems I have with it (not least its volume) it is a film that coasts with massive charm, which makes you disregard some of its less overwhelming moments.

And notably, it is another film that seems to equate Boney M with some vision of hell. The Boney M loving steppes delivery guy is a horrific caricature of what the loneliness of this endless flat landscape can do to a man. His vehicle is plastered with pornography, his gold teeth are horrid and his attitudes are clearly there as some sort of counterpoint tot he gentlemanly Asa. But its his singing of By The Rivers Of Babylon that marks him out as a loveable rogue. Imagine if it had been Brown Girl In The Ring instead – after its own hellish treatment in Touching The Void.

Comments

  1. 1
    MichaelH on 23 Nov 2009 #

    We do see Tulpan! We see her several times! I suspect the sexism isn’t a problem of the film too – rather that it’s a problem of nomadic Kazakh existence.

  2. 2
    Pete on 23 Nov 2009 #

    Alright we see a bit of Tulpan’s eyes and then we get a brief look at her in the shack, but we see a lot more of the goat.

    The sexism aspect is more a reflected one (its an issue I have with a lot of Iranian films too). Khazak nomadic life is clearly not one where equal ops has been pushed, is hard and so on. Asa is denied a job because he cannot get married, we feel sorry for him because the film at least partially present Tulpan as being unreasonable (all the big ear stuff is about that). So in feeling sympathetic towards Asa, we are buying into the normalisation of a lifestyle which denies women any autonomy outside of married life. This clearly explains the lack of woman for Asa to marry, how many of his nieces will stay on the steppes, even if they are not picked up by Khazak Idol.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page