Issue 27 (2010)

Ernest Abdyjaparov: Thief in Love (Vliublennyi vor, 2009)

reviewed by Viera Langerova © 2010

Lost Among Genres


Although in his film Saratan (Sel’skaia uprava, 2005), Ernest Abdyjaparov managed with great discipline to keep to the genre of a light hearted comedy deeply rooted in the reality of today’s Kyrgyzstan, with each of his films his ambition grows. He tries to convey in a multilayered way a more complicated story that captures not only a traditional ethnographical framework and touch upon the existing social problems, but at the same time also fulfil the viewers’ expectations. At the same time he gradually moves the focus of his stories from the countryside to the city. In his film Pure Coolness (Svetlaia prokhlada, 2007), which dealt with traditional kidnappings of potential brides, the action starts in the city, whilst the core of his film takes place in a remote village and later in the mountains.

vorThe storyline in Thief in Love unfolds amongst criminal gangs fighting over the control of the city and the proceeds of blackmail and contract killings. The first gang is controlled by Damir. Another gang finds a way to get involved in his “dealings.” The brain of the group is Dilya, a young woman with guts and the ability to plan activities, such as robbing both surprised Western tourists as well as local bosses. At first Damir offers them an alliance, but when his offer is rejected, he gets angry. One of his tasks is to catch a man who is preying on underage girls. This is perhaps more suitable job for a private detective than an angry mafia man.

vorIn the beginning, while on the road, he is attracted by a girl driving a red sport car. He has her followed. It turns out she is a daughter of a high government official, Iskander Alumov, the Chairman of the State Committee for Internal Investment, known as “Mister Ten Percent.” He takes large bribes and wants his daughter Barchyn to marry the president’s son. However, Barchyn does not want to do this because she is in love with a young painter, Adilet. It turns out he has a weak heart and needs a transplant. As a return for her promise to marry a man chosen by her family, the father agrees to finance the complicated operation. However, Adilet declines the offer and Barchyn tries to commit suicide by driving her red sport car into a lake. But help is nearby: Damir’s gang is planning to blackmail Barchyn’s father. He finds out about this and wants to get rid off Damir. The gang leader comes up with a plan. He only wants the paedophile’s heart. That should belong to the young painter.

The whole story is framed by shaman metaphysics. As we learn at the beginning, Damir is a character with a few lives. He has not fulfilled them according to the wishes of the old shaman woman and therefore she does not want to give him more chances. Her daughter pleads for him and she grants him one more life. Although he dies by Dilya’s hands (a character  identical with his eternal partner), the leader of the rival gang, he manages to save not only the potential victims of the paedophile, whom he has caught, but he gives his heart to the young painter. At the end of the film a child is born, Barchyn’s son; next to the scene we see a smiling father: the saved Adilet.

vorAbdyjaparov tried to build the whole story around the idea of doing good so that a reincarnation becomes possible. As many chances are given as necessary, until a state of eternal nirvana is reached, and this moral appeal is illustrated through a gangster story. However, for several reasons the result is problematic. The first reason is the aim of inserting melodramatic scenes into to story, for example the motives of Dilya and her gang.  They grew up in an orphanage and return there and try to help the other children by distributing the loot form their robberies. Dilya waves hundred dollars banknotes to clapping children in the style of a television quiz show. Later she explains to one of her admirers in the gang that their future together has no chance. “What shall we teach our children? How to steal?  How to kill? We’ve chosen our path. There is no way back.” She stands in front of a mirror in an ostentatious evening dress—a disguise for one of her intrigues—in a scene accompanied by sentimental music. A number of other scenes suffer from similar problems, such as the conversation between Barchyn and her family, when she informs them about her intentions to marry, as well as the love scenes between the daughter of a millionaire and the painter with a sick heart. The character of the altruistic mafia man is ambiguous as he performs both good and evil deeds, saving the children from the paedophile but shooting anyone who interferes in his business. The awkwardness of the script is not helped by the director’s contribution. Whilst one of the strengths of Saratan is its spontaneity and naturalness in everything that happens on screen, the director’s dependency on his knowledge of the environment is evident here and turns into a shortcoming in this film.

vorThe decision to combine an all-embracing love story with the gangster genre to ensure the film’s audience appeal demands from the screenwriter-director a clearer sense of style and perhaps even a shift of genre. The whole work has a feeling of a concertina book in which helplessness overlaps with stereotypes from both new and old drawers. Abdyjaparov’s ability to choose appropriate types of actor, his sense of spontaneous comedy and his view of reality in the city becomes laboured. Therefore in this case, a return would probably be a promising move forward.

Translated from Slovak by Helena Grant

Viera Langerova
Tallinn (Estonia)

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Thief in Love, Kyrgyzstan 2009
Color, 90 min.
Director Ernest Abdyjaparov
Cinematography: George Khamitsky
Production design: Baiysh Ismanov
Music: Murzali Zheenbaev
Costumes design: Asem Toktobekova
Cast: Kubanchybek Adylov, Elina Abai kyzy, Asema Toktobekova, Zarema Asanalieva
Production: Studio Ernest Abdyjaparov, Kyrgyzfilm, BIGIM, Aleksandra, Oljo

Ernest Abdyjaparov: Thief in Love (Vliublennyi vor, 2009)

reviewed by Viera Langerova © 2010