Lu Zhang – Hyazgar AKA Desert Dream (2007)

Quotes from IMDB: This film should absolutely be on the “avoid” list of that group of audience fed on Hollywood fodder of car chase, explosions, and the like. But to those who are used to seeking out various kinds of cinematic experience, this could be quite rewarding. First, the visual experience.

Director ZHANG Lu seems to be extremely fond of using slow pan shots, with the interesting effect of showing you something that has been happening off screen, something that you may or may not have anticipated. It’s like that throughout the entire film. A good example is when we see a man on horseback waving a greeting to three passing tanks. The camera then pans left towards the tanks, losing the man to the right side of the frame. After maybe 20, 30 seconds, when the tanks have already moved some distance away from us, the camera pans back to show the man. By this time what we see is a fresh trail of hoof-prints on the sand going away from us, at the end of which we see the back of the receding man and horse. So now, we can “see” that while the camera pans away from the man to show only the tanks in the frame, the man starts to ride away. Interesting visual experience for the audience.

As to audio experience, strange as it may sound for a film that is completely devoid of background music, there are some interesting moments. Specifically, there are two songs, sung respectively by a man and a women in two separate occasions. Both turn out to be erotic fore plays, which you would have guessed even without the subtitles, from the timbre and emotions of their voices.

This is a simple story, simply told – simple in the sense of the events, but not in the sense of the emotions and feelings behind them. An ecology-conscious man in Mongolia chooses to stay with his responsibility of planting trees in the steppes as his wife takes their daughter to the city to be treated for a disease that threatens to make her deaf. While holding the ford alone, he harbors two refugees form famine in North Korea, a widow and her preteen son, with her husband shot dead during the exile. As she makes herself useful in helping in task such as collecting cow dung (an interesting operation of scooping them up and throwing them into a basket carried on the back) for fuel and occasional midwifery (for cows and lambs), the boy develops a bond with this kindly man as a substitute figure for his recently lost father. And all the while, they speak to each other in different languages – Mongolian and Korean – which the other party does not really understand. The beauty is that nothing will be lost in translation, and it makes one ponder the question of whether language is a tool or a barrier to communication.

It is easy to say that this movies is about choices, understanding, interaction, passion, survival, loneliness….but this can be said about a lot of movies. As the bonding between the man and his guests strengthens, you would almost want to see that he abandons his wife and little daughter in the city, although you know that morally, this is not right. At the end, this does not happen, as mother and son continue on with their journey that does not seem to have a destination. The part that haunts me most is the man’s short trip to visit his family in the city. At this reunion with his wife and daughter, in an environment of modern civilization, his feeling of alienation and isolation is acutely palpable, as he yearns to return to the steppes to the two strangers he met not long ago.

1.37GB | 2 h 8 min | 672×352 | avi

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Language:Mongolian
Subtitles: English, Korean

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