This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
"Tulpan” is an amazing film. It shows such an unfamiliar world, it might as well be Mars. This is a place where the horizon is a straight line against the sky in every direction. There are no landmarks, no signs, no roads. No vegetation grows much more than a foot or two. It is dry, dusty, cold and windy, and nothing seems to be green. This is the world “Tulpan” takes place in, and I can think of only one other story that would feel at home there: “Waiting for Godot.”
Yet the people love it. They are yurt dwellers in Kazakhstan, the largest landlocked nation on Earth. They live on what is named in the credits as the Hungersteppe and raise sheep. We meet a young sailor named Asa, discharged from the Russian navy, who has come here to live with his sister Samal, her husband, Ondas, and their children. As the story opens, Asa, Ondas and his buddy Boni are negotiating with a poker-faced man and his hostile wife for the hand of their daughter, Tulpan (“Tulip”).
Asa enthralls them with tales of the seahorse and octopus. They offer 10 sheep and a chandelier. It is to no avail; Tulpan, peeking through the doorway curtains, thinks that Asa’s ears are too big. There is not one single other potential bride in the district, and how is a man to live here without a wife?
These people are quite familiar with what we call civilization. Their children have been deserting to the cities for years. They do not have electricity, and water must be trucked in. I assume they eat a lot of mutton, and there is a man with an ungainly Jeep-like vehicle who comes around selling cucumbers, and, I hope, other vegetables. They have a battery-powered radio, which one of the boys listens to eagerly, racing into the yard to announce: “Breaking news! Earthquake in Japan! Seven on the Richter scale!”