SPECIAL:

Central Asia

©GULNARA ABIKEEVA

REVIEW

Aksuat

A tragic farce. The routine and quiet life of the villager Aman is disrupted by the visit of Kanat, his younger brother, an unfortunate businessman. Kanat escaped from the city and from his creditors, and comes to his big brother’s home with all his possessions – a pregnant Russian wife named Zhanna. Aman develops an affection for Zhanna and his newborn nephew, but doesn’t dare to claim something that doesn’t belong to him. The city brother has already forgotten about his wife and Aman sends Zhanna back to the city to her parents.

As soon as the Kazakh new wave was formed, people actively discussed which one of the film directors would become the leader of the group. In the second half of the 1990s, the group of leaders defined itself: Darezhan Omirbayev, Amir Karakulov and Serik Aprimov. The persona of Serik Aprimov always remained independent because the success of The Final Stop remained unsurpassed. The failed and confusing film Dream in a Dream (released as The Diary of a Young Man) seemed an accidental mistake. Everybody expected the next great picture from Serik Aprimov because nobody knew Kazakh lifestyle and mentality like he did – he was originally from an aul. Aksuat fulfilled all expectations one hundred percent because it conveys a keen feeling of love and attachment to the Kazakh land that hadn’t been portrayed in a film for many years.

Eight years passed between The Final Stop and Aksuat. During this time the film director tried to acquire a business, lived in London for a year, worked as an adviser to the President of Kazakhstan, then dropped all his vain pursuits and returned to film-making.

It seems that in Aksuat the film director is saying good-bye to the old-himself even though his sense of humor and the absurd remain the same. Many elements remain the same as in his previous picture: the action takes place is the village of Aksuat (but instead of summer, it’s winter); the policemen have their endless and purposeless conversations, the drunk father of a big family is still a drunk and pushed around by his wife; one criminal investigation is replaced with another (in the first film one character killed himself with a rifle, in this a character hanged himself in a bathroom); people drink heavily as usual; prostitution remains; and life hasn’t changed at all for the better – good old Aksuat. The only innovation is that cell phones have replaced regular phones.

But at the same time everything has changed. Serik Aprimov split the protagonist from The Final Stop and presented him in the two possible scenarios— Kanat, the younger brother, lives in a city, and Aman, the older brother, remains in Aksuat. The city brother turns into a broke New Kazakh who has forgotten the Kazakh language and traditions and now runs for help to his older brother in the aul. He brings his Russian wife, who is in an advanced stage of pregnancy. Aman, the villager, became a more serious and respectful man, and built a big house, but is still a bachelor. After his little brother’s visit, everything falls apart in Aman’s life, and the reason for this is Zhanna, the wife of Kanat. The same homewrecker in the life of two brothers was in the film Homewrecker by Amir Karakulov. But in this case neither brother decides to be with her. The husband is not in a rush to see her and his baby. He considers their meeting just an opportunity to avoid his arrest. Despite his feelings for Zhanna, Aman sends her back to the city to her parents.

The film has an amazing rhythm – unhurried and reserved, just like the character of Aman. At the same time the film doesn’t have anything unnecessary; all elements add important information to the whole picture of the film. Behind this reserved appearance, an incredible energy pulses – of course, the humans’ lives are broken!

I have never seen images like those in Aksuat. The empty winter exteriors, Kazakhs in malakhais (traditional fur hats) and cell phones, a lonely horseman in the middle of a concrete road. This is the third work for Boris Troshev, the young cinematographer – previously he shot Cardiogram and Killer, both directed by Darezhan Omirbayev, and the documentary Happiness directed by Sergei Dvortsov. It is clear that Boris is growing as a cinematographer from project to a project.

Of course, without Sabit Kurmanbekov, the actor playing Aman, the film would never be as successful as it was. He also served as the production designer. He could perform (relive) the character of Aman in exact detail, sincerity and simplicity, the reserved but expressive character whose deep feelings are hidden behind his calm surface.

When the film ended somebody from the audience commented: "What kind of ending is this? If Aman jumped in the bus with Zhanna, that would’ve been an exiting finale!" I disagreed: "It would be The Final Stop –2. How many times can one leave?"

The visceral and heartbreaking musical score by Kazbek Spanov at the finale and the deserted almost moon-like surface of the exterior – it is all about the unfairness of life and the people in the village of Aksuat. "It is my life, my matches," Aman says, and finally, it is my life.

Aksuat

Kazakhstan, 1997, A production of "East Cinema", 80 minutes, color

Directed and Written by: Serik Aprimov

Cinematographer: Boris Troshev

Production Designer: Sabit Kurmanbekov

Music by: Kazbek Spanov

Cast: Sabit Kurmanbekov, Erzhan Ashim, Makangali Abdulayev, Nurzhaman Ikhtimbayev, Gulnazit Omarova

 

Awards and Participation in Film Festivals:

Award for Best Directing at the Eurasia Film Festival in Almaty, 1998

Grand Prize in the Asian Program at the Tokyo Film Festival in 1999

Screening at the Rotterdam Film Festival, 1999

 


Gulnara Abikeeva, 2003

Back to Central Asian Special/ Index