Central Asia



In Spe (In Hope)

An urban drama. The story takes place in Kyrgyzstan during the first years of independence. Three brothers, Kubat, Sato and Kanat, inherit a greenhouse from their father. The oldest brother, Kubat, takes care of it. The youngest brother, Kanat, destroys it. The middle brother, Sato, is indifferent to the situation.


The film In Spe can be interpreted as a private family drama and as a symbol of the disintegration of a Eurasia that has recently ceased to exist – the Soviet Union. Three brothers –Kubat, Sato, and Kanat – have been happy carefree boys and loved to built sand castles. The sun was shining, the water was splashing. Now, all that is left are black and white photographs. The elements of water, clouds and mountains were replaced with concrete and steel of city buildings. The brothers drift apart. The oldest brother, Kubat, works very hard trying to preserve their greenhouse inherited from their father (read "their Soviet heritage.") The middle brother, Sato, is involved in Eastern studies and desires to reach nirvana through yoga and meditation. The youngest brother, Kanat, is a product of Western influence.

Let’s examine a dialog between the oldest and the youngest brothers while driving in an old "Pobeda" car:

KANAT: Your car stinks with mothballs. It always did, it is your favorite aroma!

KUBAT: Don’t speed!

KANAT: It can’t speed… How many times have I told you – Sell this piece of junk! And the greenhouse, too!

KUBAT: By the way, this junk is our father’s heritage.

KANAT: Who needs this kind of heritage?

Kanat stops the car and leaves it.

KUBAT: Where are you going?

KANAT: To my brilliant future…

Kanat goes to an underground crosswalk. At the entrance of the crosswalk he meets a black man, who gives Kanat his round black glasses.

Andrey Plakhov, a Russian film critic, noted in his article about this film that "in the context of the current historical change, the sale and destruction of the greenhouse may be interpreted as the disintegration of the "hothouse," artificial environment of the Socialistic system." This old world, stinking of mothballs, is not only the greenhouse, but also a library, in which Kanat stumbles by accident. He passes by bookshelves and hears the whispers of books – fragmented phrases about meaning of life, about saving one’s soul, about prophecy, about their greenhouse, and about "strangers that come and destroy everything." For Kanat this space is a labyrinth without an exit. It is something very foreign and he keeps stumbling upon dead ends and locked doors. Kanat is annoyed and says: "Here everything is like my brother’s greenhouse. But instead of flowers are books. Everything is rotten and unneeded."

The world of the oldest brother Kubat is the world of the traditional values, their father’s heritage, and family priorities. He has a nice fiancée and she helps him with the greenhouse. He always tries to communicate with his brothers and rushes to rescue Kanat from one problem or another. He represents the stability and calmness that have been continuously tested.

The world of Sato is escapism from reality. He has been practicing meditation for nine years. He constantly repeats: "Everything died, this is just a shell…" He looks like young Buddha or the eternal Bodhisattva. The highest expression of Buddhist philosophy is remaining non-active, remaining in the condition of "satori". His name Sato comes from this concept. He almost never participates in the conversations in the film and avoids offering his input to any family conflicts. He is the first one to give his soul to Charon, the black stranger at the entrance of the underground crosswalk.

What kind of world is the world of Kanat, the youngest brother? What kind of world is the world of the young generation of the new system and the new values? This is a world of mannequins and guns, values turned upside down, emptiness and loneliness, where everything is for sale.

Kanat and his girlfriend, both dressed in black, are walking down the street. They stop by a store. In a window of the store the owner positions a real man and woman instead of mannequins. Kanat shoots an invisible gun at the storeowner and then at the living mannequins. They don’t move. Or another scene with Kanat. Kanat and his girlfriend make love in an empty apartment covered with newspapers. In another scene they are hanging upside down on a high bar and resemble bats. Everything around them is an upside down world – piercing loneliness. Kanat sorts empty clothes hangers and they resemble empty souls. But this is not the worst. From time to time Kanat gets involved with a gang hanging out in the underground and his oldest brother has to come and ransom him. At the entrance of the underground a girl stands and holds a pheasant feather in her hands (a symbol of otherworldliness). She takes the ransom. Instead of showing his gratitude, Kanat destroys Kubat’s world by selling the greenhouse behind Kubat’s back.

After the sale Kanat stops by a stadium, where children play soccer. Kanat watches the kids. One of the boys notices Kanat watching them and pulls out a real gun, aiming at Kanat. The circle is completed. The generation of Kanat will be replaced by another one, even more pragmatic, and they will kill people, not in make-believe, but in reality. The finale is more than pessimistic – Sato leaves this world by his own choice, Kanat commits suicide – in a bathtub, curled up like a fetus, Kubat is destroyed and nothing is left for him.

Analyzing this film we spoke of two spaces – the old world of the greenhouse and libraries, and the new one of concrete constructions, elevators, empty rooms and basements. Actually, there is one more space. The last quarter of the film takes place on the roof of an apartment building. Here Sato steps into his nirvana and Kanat commits suicide. Here wanders Charon to collect human souls. This third space is purgatory.

The greenhouse symbolizes a paradise. Kubat is its savior. The modern city represents hell. Kanat sells his soul and becomes part of it. The roof represents purgatory and Sato is the main element of it. Three brothers – three spaces. Paradise is lost, sold out, and never will be regained. Hell is filled with people looking like bats and mannequins. Looks like a morgue. It is not clear where the space of life is. Maybe it doesn’t exist? It does. To be exact, it did. It did in the images of water and childhood.

In this context the Latin title In Spe (In Hope) sounds like a post-apocalyptic message to the world. I would just add – The year of 1993.

In Spe (In Hope)

Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, 1993, 87 minutes, black-and-white

Writen and Directed by: Marat Sarulu

Cinematographer Manisbek Musayev

Music by: Alexander Yurtayev and Bakit Alisherov

Cast: Rustem Turkbenbayev, Adil Turkbenbayev, Anatoli Pak, Ainura Esenbayeva, Ernesto Vicente

Production of Kino Company, Ashuu-XXI, with the participation of Solton

Distribution rights: Kino Company


Awards and Participation in Film Festivals

Sreening at the Tokyo Film Festival, 1994

Screening at the Kinotavor Film Festival in Sochi, 1994

Gulnara Abikeeva, 2003

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