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CLOSE TO EDEN

Russia / France, 1991 (MIFF 1993)

Director: Nikita Mikhalkov

There are few signs of modern society on the vast, rolling steppes of China's inner Mongolia. The uninterrupted greens and yellows of the gently slopmg hills meet the endlessly blue horizon. Here director Nikita Mikhalkov (best known in the West for Dark Eyes) reaches deep into the heart of a world that is slowly disappearing, and captures its memory in pristine hues, breathtaking vistas, and loving portraits.

This fresh and poignantly funny story of a Mongol herdsman and his family who are gradually being herded into a city that is encroaching on their steppe is told with seductive and affectionate charm. While they seem to live in a timeless environment unobstructed by contemporary ideas, practices and constraints, their daily routine is punctuated by visits from a zany uncle bearing gifts from another world: a Sylvester Stallone poster, an apple, Chopin's music played on an accordion. These small talismans spell the end of traditional life and the beginning of a hilarious adventure into an unstoppable new universe.

The irony of the title is, of course, that Eden is precisely what all the characters are being more and more displaced from.

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