Newsletter for the films Selkinchek (1993) and Kardiogramma (1995)
Selkinchek by Aktana Arym Kubat and Kardiogramma by Darezhan Omirbayev, shot within two years of each other, have been declared to be the outstanding cinematic voices of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan at the turning point of eras. They have attracted the attention of both the local and international film communities. It would seem that both pictures tell the same story: a boy grows up, experiences his first love. However, the cinematic language and the narrative of each of them are absolutely unique, which makes this newsletter and the comparison of the two pictures also unique.
Childhood, adolescence, youth
Aktan Arym Kubat's films are autobiographical and related to his personal memories. Selkinchek is the first film of the I Remember, I Experience trilogy, which reveals the theme of childhood. The following picture Beshkempirand Mimilcontinue down the path and talk about adolescence and then youth.
The nomadic peoples of Central Asia—the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz people, and Karakalpaks—used yurts until the XX century, and the vernacular architecture is also found in the regions where many Turkic peoples live. With the establishment of Soviet power, the nomads gradually settled down and began to build cities, which changed their way of life, not only altering their connection to the environment, but also to their inner worldview. Today, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz enact a nomadic lifestyle in the summer, from the end of May to the beginning of October, and follow for their cattle. The yurt, a perfectly harmonized living space for a large family, is still used during this period of the year.
The Fool — priest
One of the characters in Selkinchek is a fool. Although secondary, it is obvious that without his presence the figure of the main character is less pronounced. The image of the fool in the folklore of different peoples is expressed in the form of Ivan the Fool and Devon. It is a clown that has deep roots in the culture, and is almost archetypal. Fool indirectly reflects another, irrational being - in his article, M. M. Bakhtin discusses the functionality and reading of this image in literature.
Aktan Arym Kubat pays great attention to symbols. In the film Selkinchek, children play with a white mouse - this gives the film’s pace as following the natural ease of life’s flow. Another symbol is a seashell filled with the unknown noise of the sea which charms everyone, including the Poplar girl.
Vladimir Nabokov's story Signs and Symbolsis full of sensitive attention to important details. It was written in English and published in 1948, then was translated into Russian by the author. The concise, almost everyday story is so masterfully equipped with signs and symbols that it gives the reader absolute freedom to interpret them.
Koshok is a Kyrgyz song of the burial ritual. In Selkinchek there are scenes of a funeral procession. Black silhouettes of men carry the deceased in the main scene through the white waves of dry Chia. Death here is extremely aestheticized and turned into a visual symbol of farewell.
The development of cinema in Kyrgyzstan and the appearance of the Kyrgyz Miracle is associated with the name of the writer Chingiz Aitmatov. His prose influenced the original film language throughout broader Central Asia: more than 20 films were made based on his works and scripts, including My Poplar in a Red Scarf, Jamila, The First Teacher, Smerch, Run of the Pacer, White Steamboat, Red Apple. These and other works represent an important part of the cinematic heritage of Central Asia.
Initially, the picture Kardiogramma was supposed to be called Voyeur. Through this title, Darezhan Omirbayev wanted to convey not only one of the main messages of the film, but also his view of art in general: the ability to see is much more important than the ability to speak.
The subject of voyeurism is often touched upon in art. In 2010, the Tate Gallery in London hosted the exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera. It was based on the idea of interpreting this action from different angles: what is its essence, how it can be dictated and what has influenced the “culture of peeping” over the past decades.
Another example is the work of one of the brightest representatives of modern fine art in Uzbekistan: Bobur Ismailov’s painting called Voyerist.
Mother and Child
Darezhan Omirbayev has always noticed the special connection between mother and child and decided to convey it in his film Kardiogramma, which is more autobiographical.
The theme of mother and child is one of the most fundamental in art, especially in the paintings of artists. The work of Vladimir Burmakin from Uzbekistan Baysun Madonna was created by the artist after a trip to Surkhandarya together with another outstanding artist from this area - Ruzi Choriev.
Kliment Redko's painting Motherhood is located in the Savitsky Museum in the city of Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region within the Republic of Uzbekistan. Thanks to the founder, philanthropist, collector and artist Igor Savitsky, this museum contains one of the largest collections of the early Russian avant-garde. Hidden in the far periphery, the museum is widely known all over the world. Savitsky was able to collect and preserve an incredibly important subset of the former Soviet Union’s repressed art. Many paintings were renamed as a way to protect them from destruction.
Speaking of Central Asian cinema, it is impossible not to mention such a figure as Dinara Asanova. Starting her career as an assistant director at the Kirghizfilm Studio, during her short career she managed to make films that opened the door for many directors of both Central Asia and the broader Soviet space as a whole.
One of the filmmakers who utilized her work was Darezhan Omirbayev. He encountered her work during his training in Kazakh State University, where he majored in applied mathematics. As Darezhan Omirbayev himself says, her film The Key that Should Not Be Handed On touched him with its atmosphere so much that after watching it, he became a serious film lover.
Robert Bresson, Andrei Tarkovsky
French director Robert Bresson is one of the greatest creators of world cinema, remembered for his minimalistic presentation and experimental solutions. All of his films are dedicated to the ultimate phases of the human spirit. In the book Notes on Cinema, Bresson collected a set of rules that, although paradoxical, express the truth that “the artist needs at least to break them.”
Andrey Tarkovsky believed that only Bresson managed to achieve absolute simplicity in his paintings. Tarkovsky himself, setting himself the same goal, followed a parallel, no less interesting path. Both filmmakers—Robert Bresson and Andrey Tarkovsky– significantly influenced Central Asian cinema, becoming screen mentors to filmmakers.
Almaty: Audio-visual Image of the City
The action film Kardiogramma by Darezhan Omirbayev takes place near the city of Almaty. Architecture, typical to all former Soviet republics in the 90's, flashes in the frame, not fully drawing the attention of the viewer, but setting an extremely harmonious environment for the backdrop of events. As a soundtrack for a virtual walk around the city, you can choose an experimental selection of the modern music of Kazakhstan from the group Erased Tapes.