Fox Lorber presents
Beshkempir: The Adopted Son (1992)
"You are a foundling! Beshkempir, who has five grandmothers!"- Adir Abilkassimov
Stars: Mirian Abdykalykov, Albina Imasheva
Other Stars: Adir Abilkassimov, Bakit Dzhylkychlev, Mirlan Cinkozoev
Director: Aktan Abdykalykov
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:21m:35s
Release Date: 1999-01-04
DVD ReviewComing-of-age stories seem to be a subject widely resurrected in cinema. What sets Beshkempir apart, though, is the world in which it takes place. Set in a Kyrgyz village, the rural society is a stark contrast to anything the average Westerner might be used to. In this world, everything seems to take on a more fascinating nature, especially when ritual and long-held beliefs form much of the bond between people.
Beshkempir is a fairly ordinary child. He gets into mischief with his friends, explores juvenile sexuality, and is often berated by his parents as a disappointment. What he doesn't know, though, is that he is adopted. Much of the film is simply a quiet exploration of Beshkempir's general lifestyle and how it intertwines with his village. The story takes an ominous turn, however, when one of Beshkempir's playmates angrily suggests that he is actually adopted—a foundling child. Though his parents and grandmother try and dissuade his suspicion that the accusation is true, Beshkempir suddenly finds himself faced with philosophical questions about his life that perhaps no child this young should ever have to endure.
Beshkempir is told with startling attention to artistic style. Most scenes are extremely visual and well composed. The black-and-white imagery manages to capture the natural environment of the village in an interesting way. Short segments in color appear at random intervals, adding focus to certain moments. The color is used in such a strict and small manner, the effect is much greater than one might expect. The film is virtually silent, with very little dialogue, and even sound effects are extremely sparse.
Acting is at an incredibly high level, especially for a film focused mainly on children. Presumably filmed in an actual Kyrgyz village, the realism is untouchable and adds much to the credibility of the presentation. The final result of all of these techniques is something that feels extremely tangible, yet fantasy-like. While the story is a familiar one, about the trials of simply getting beyond childhood, Beshkempir is far more engrossing than I ever expected: I became lost in the images and unfolding story and, before I realized it, the film was over. I won't complain about the film being too short, however, because I don't think it was. Rather, it is the perfect length for the story it tells and, rather than ending things on a "happily ever after" note, the film closes merely with Beshkempir finding new confidence in himself.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.66:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Although the packaging suggests a 1:85:1 aspect ratio, the film looks to be, more accurately,1:66:1, just barely widescreened. The transfer is extremely good in general and the only thingsthat cause me to bring the grade down is the occasional presence of shimmer and pixel movement in somescenes, typically ones with large spaces of dark greys. However, this is still an outstanding black-and-white image, and no compression artifacts are present. The source print is amazinglyclean and the only portion with any kind of distracting scratches or grain is the very beginning(right after opening credits). The color segments are brilliant and vivid, looking just as good asthe rest of the film. The English subtitles are part of the image and not a player-driven function. They are white with black bordering, and while usually white subtitles in a black-and-white filmare frowned upon, the size and bordering makes them easily readable and clear.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: A Pro-Logic Mono audio track is used here. The amount of depth and clarity is actually quitesurprising, with elements like chirping birds sounding almost as if they were coming fromsurround channels. There is a wide frequency range here that really comes across very well. Conversely, there is a severe amount of analog hum and tape hiss in the track. This hum carries over intothe subwoofer channel, so you might want to turn it off. Dialogue in the film is sparse, as ismusic, so the majority of the film is ambient, natural sounds.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Extras Review: Nothing is really present on this disc other than the movie. A short listing of the awardsBeshkempir has won is here, and that's about it. The menu really only serves to access chapters,of which there are only 6.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsHaving long been a denizen of 'art-house' theatres and college film fests, Beshkempir isone of the most powerful and impressive foreign films I've seen in a while. Despite the roughpresentation, the transfer is gorgeous and rewarding. Highly recommended.
Dan Lopez 2000-09-28