Central Asia



The Place on the Grey Triangle Hat

Psychological drama. A man with a very cynical view of life decides to kill himself. Happily, his suicide attempt fails and causes him to re-evaluate the meaning of life.

The film The Place on the Grey Triangle Hat was awarded with one of the most prestigious prizes of international film festivals - The Golden Leopard - in Locarno in 1993. It has a specific order of law. Director Ermek Shinarbayev managed to ride on New Kazakh Wave whose essence is the opening of the borders, a synthesis of the West and East, an avoidance of narration, intellectuality and particular aestheticism.

The film shows an evading time – our constantly changing city of Almaty. In 1993 it was different from its today’s like in 2003. The film demonstrates the lively elite youth hanging out that includes artists who sensed the air of freedom, though only creative, for the first time, – a strange but yet to be compared state. Ermek Shinarbayev succeeded in conveying that air that filled the then Almaty. The film showed the youth and their mood and the beat of their hearts. This is a requiem of its kind to the underground art. Probably, in the near future this cultural phenomenon will reappear not so soon.

The film is primarily about the following things – about an old house whose windows doors having been kept shut for a long time started being opened all of a sudden. It was the windows that were opened first which appeared to be unusual and strange – the life began to change and the head got dizzy. Probably, that is why in this film there are many windows opened wide but they lean against the adjacent wall.

In general, the film has everything insignificant, trifling and indistinct – the main character loafing around the city, thoroughfares, talks. And it seems that the final scene contradicts the previous ones shown but it was shot precisely with the current of the stated mood. The main character of the film is seen gulping down tablets in an attempt to commit suicide. Dialling different phone numbers he calls all the girlfriends of his declaring his love to them and making dates with them for tomorrow. But he knows well that tomorrow never comes for him. Then he falls asleep with a telephone receiver in his hand. In the morning "his suicide" turns into a light intoxication of the organism, as most of tablets he took were vitamins. This finale is ridiculous and cheerless and so metamorphoses easily into a certain symbol that inspires a more detailed talk.

Here is what the director says about the finale of his film, "The main character is almost an addict, almost a geek. He comes in close contact with the death and this does not destroy him! A sand that fell in a shell causes a severe pain in the shellfish. Then it starts enclosing it with a mother of pearl. Thus a pearl – black, pink or blue is born. Awfully beautiful! But what is this? This is a concentrated pain. I am more concerned with this alchemy of the soul in the film».

Well, the main character, Adil by name seems to be rather an idler and good-for-nothing given that he does not read books or maintain high-brow talks. But he does appear to derive from a company of intellectuals and the books and discourses are all back in the past. A cast of the glance suffices to infer from the scene when Adil listens to an opera aria from an archaic tape recorder that his restlessness does not stem from stupidity or pointless idleness but from something else. Adil is almost "an odd person" of the classical Russian literature. In the film the voice of Maria Calais sounds as she sings the aria of Casta Diva from the opera Norma by Bellini. In addition, the poems are read through the film so can we see modern Kazakhstani artists. The main female character is played by Saule Suleimenova, an avant-garde artist who plays practically herself. Adil Esenbulatov plays himself too. The atmosphere of the film is intellectual and its form is utterly aesthetic. Indeed, the film is surprisingly beautiful and refined from the beginning to the end.

The film takes us to the end of the last period of the Soviet underground culture and the fate of its representatives. A poet who lives in the milieu of Bohemian sessions cannot exist without the dead air of kitchens, basements and breezeways. It seems that the fresh air of change has a harmful effect on him. He has nothing to do but to poison himself or "to jump out of the window".

The main character of The Place on the Grey Triangle Hat is the final point of transformation of male images of a Kazakh New Wave. To be exact, those films offer transformations of one image discovered by Bakhyt Kilibayev, Alexander Baranov and Rashid Nugmanov in The Needle.

Viktor Tsoi in The Needle played "a Western superman", he was more of a token than a live man. He came from nowhere – "from Moscow" (read "from the Moon") and vanished in nowhere – in a certain "misty distance". In The Little Fish In Love the main character is a Kazakh brother of ours, a well recognised real-life personality. He came to a city from a village, looked around and opted to come back to his aul (village). However, this personality is quite schematic, leaving us no chance to make profound psychological insights. In the film Homewrecker the brothers live not in the aul but in the suburbs of Almaty. They are completely adequate to their habitat but not intellectuals. They come up with some psychological motivations which are enough for them to do away with their common girlfriend but anyway they are by far away from in-depth philosophical reflections.

The Place on the Grey Triangle Hat, to my mind, reflects the peak of inner reflections of this so intensively elaborated personality. After the film by Ermek Shinarbayev one can give the most comprehensive description of a city character of a Kazakh New Wave. He is a high-brow young Asian, who is able to think and defend himself, is related to the underground culture and rushes in between his European mentality and Asian environment. It may be thought that in many respects this is an aggregate portrait of the directors of a New Wave. Interestingly, this image was destined for a short period of existence: from 1988 till 1993. Then it tended to degenerate, lose its charm and become not interesting.

Thus, a brilliant stylist Ermek Shinarbayev concludes a New Kazakh Wave with this film. After The Place on the Grey Triangle Hat began another sort of cinema.

The Place on the Grey Triangle Hat

(Azghyin Ushtyktyn Azaby)

Kazakhstan, 1993, 82 minutes, color

Director: Ermek Shinarbayev

Script: Nikita Zhelkibayev

Cinematographer: Sergey Kosmanyev

Cast: Adil Yesenbulatov, Saulye Suleymenova, Yulia Sukhova, Andrei Melnik, Kasim Zhakibayev


Awards and Participation in Film Festivals:

Grand Prix "Golden Leopard" at Locarno film festival –93,

Participation in Vienna, Cairo, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Los-Angeles,

Vancouver, Rotterdam, Edinburgh, Sarajevo, Montreal, Nantes film festivals.

Gulnara Abikeeva, 2003

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