By Lee Hyo-won
From the bleak wastelands of Mongolia come two heartwarming tales ― "Tuya's Marriage" and "Desert Dream
" ― that speak about the incredible power of hope, courage and love in life. In the two movies, individual lives cross paths and stumble upon the unexpected. One desert woman leaves her disabled husband to remarry, only so that she can take care of her former spouse, and finds newfound meaning of love and self worth. Another one defects from North Korea with her son to find home ― and love ― in an unfamiliar place.
Winner of the 2007 Golden Berlin Bear, "Tuya's Marriage" tells the unforgettable story of a woman who breaks the conventional rules of marriage so that she can ― ironically ― honor them. In the middle of the vast desert in Inner Mongolia, Tuya leads a tough yet peaceful life with her husband and two children. But when an accident cripples her husband, she is forced to carry on, herding sheep across endless miles each day. When she, too, becomes injured, however, her husband and relatives think it's in everyone's best interest to set Tuya free.
Divorced, Tuya embarks on a journey to remarry. Yet, she refuses to leave her family behind and tries to find someone willing to take in her children ― and her former husband. Though numerous men propose, none of them want the burden of her "extended" family.
One day, an old friend asks Tuya for her hand in marriage. He becomes more than just the breadwinner for her family, and as he paves a way into her heart, Tuya struggles to balance her love for the two men in her life.
Director Wang Quan An paints a breathtaking portrait set in the Mongolian landscape. He captures Tuya's delicate sentimental chord with a keen eye, and actress Yu Nan gives a wonderful performance as a beautiful, strong-willed woman.
From a larger viewpoint, "Tuya's Marriage" is about survival. It depicts a threatened tradition as modernization weighs in. The director explained during his visit to Korea for the 12th Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival that he wanted to portray a vanishing way of life, and the things we sacrifice ― once and for all ― in the name of economic development.
Korean subtitles only. Now showing at Spongehouse Joongang in Myeong-dong, central Seoul, and Cinespace Juan in Incheon.
A co-production by Korea, Mongolia and France, "Hyazagar" (also known as "Desert Dream
") takes place in a tiny village straddling the border between China and Mongolia. Townspeople leave one by one as the town becomes increasingly deserted, but one man insists on staying behind. His frustrated wife and daughter abandon him, but Hangai continues on with his daily routine planting trees.
One day, a mother and her young son arrive at his door. Soon-hee and her son Chang-ho have defected from North Korea in the hope of a better life in South Korea, losing her husband on the way. Although they do not understand each other's languages, the three begin a peaceful "co-habitation". As the young boy becomes attached to his temporary home, Soon-hee must also face her own growing attraction to Hangai.
Though pushed forth by dramatic narrative elements ― North Korean defectors and stark drought-ridden places ― the movie retains a slow, mellow tempo. It is deeply imbedded in realism that makes you fathom the meaning of life and its ironic twists and turns. Though set in barren desert lands, life takes full bloom amid the vast Mongolian plains, and the sandy winds will take your breath away.
Directed by Zhang Lu
, who recently gained international acclaim for his award-winning film "Grain in Ear
", the film competed at Berlin this year.
Korean subtitles only. To open Nov. 8 at Spongehouse Joongang in Myeong-dong, central Seoul; Spongehouse Apgujeong, southern Seoul; Cinecube near Gwanhwamun; and Cinespace Juan in Incheon.