Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum section — Mongolian sidebar), Feb. 11, 1994. Running time: 128 MIN.
With: Ch. Erdeniochir, B. Banzaragts, D. Sosorbaram, Th. Idshinhorloo, M. Dorshdagvaa, Z. Zerendorsh.
Collectors of exotic costumers may want to take a peek at “A Saint in a Turbulent Age,” but otherwise this 17th-century Mongolian talkfest is too reminiscent of creaky ’50s vehicles from Eastern Europe to conquer auds beyond its borders.
Part 1 (“The Rising Tide,” 67 minutes) opens in 1657, when Mongolia was threatened by absorption into the neighboring Manchurian empire. Internally, the country is riven by political battling between the Great Khan, local leaders and scholarly Tsanabatsar (Ch. Erdeniochir), dubbed “The Living Buddha” because of his travels in India and Tibet. The Khan himself is also worried about continuing his family line — a problem solved by dusky maid Amina (Th. Idshinhorloo).
Part 2 (“The Ebbing Tide,” 61 minutes) fast-forwards to 1686 and the breakdown in peace talks between two factions. Tsanabatsar, who’s invented a way of unifying the country through a second written language, is finally forced to flee to Manchuria.
Viewers without degrees in Mongolian history will likely be baffled by most of the goings-on, clogged by a forest of names, a gabby script and unclear development. Moscow-trained helmers’ visual style is conservative, with lots of medium shots and close-ups, and only basic cutting. Action scenes are minimal and boxy-looking (in 1.33).