Tuya's Marriage

Tuya's Marriage


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The winner of the Golden Bear in Berlin centres on Mongolian shepherdess Tuya (Nan Yu). We meet her first as she rides her camel, rounding up sheep – which make a surprising amount of noise as they run.

She finds a man, dead drunk on the road, slings him over the camel and heads home. This is, you sense, a woman who knows her own mind and does not suffer fools gladly.

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At home her husband Bater (played by an actor of the same name) waits, looking after the kids. It quickly becomes apparent that this role reversal is not one of choice. Bater had an accident sinking a well for their farm, which left him disabled. When she, too, finds she has pushed her body to the limit, she comes under increasing pressure to divorce her husband – and reluctantly agrees, under the condition that whoever takes her on, also looks after her family, including Bater. All the while, Tuya confides in the drunk, her unhappily married neighbour Sen’ge (Sen’ge).

This is a gentle, complex drama, chiefly concerned with bittersweet affairs of the heart. The morality of Tuya’s decision – and society’s attitude towards her - is explored with care by Lu Wei and Wang Quan'an (who also directs, with a great sense of visual flare). By never losing sight of the humour in the situation – a sequence of dodgy suitors is particularly amusing – the plot is engaging and entertaining without becoming dour, and Quan’an never loosens the dramatic grip.

Equally, you sense this is a love story to a way of life that is vanishing - as farming is forgone in favour of industry.

The cinematography is richly realised by Lutz Reitemeier, with the bright colours used in many interior scenes and the costuming, contrasting well with the harshness of the Mongolian Steppe. Tuya is joins the ranks of other strong, female characters created by Chinese directors and writers, in this case battling against the odds to keep her family together.

Nan Yu is particularly worthy of mention in the central role of Tuya. She manages to find a fragility within her character’s strength which keeps the audience fully on side to the last.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2007
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A woman faces tough choices in the Mongolian Steppe.

Director: Quanan Wang

Writer: Wei Lu, Quanan Wang

Starring: Nan Yu, Bater, Sen'ge, Baolier, Zhaya

Year: 2006

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: China

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