Öndög : “A visually stunning work of cinema”


An independent-minded heroine satisfies her desires on the plains of Mongolia in the latest from Wang Quan’an

Jonathan Romney for Screendaily

The film kicks off in the darkness with a shot from a vehicle travelling fast over the plains at night: voices off discuss a mission to hunt down wolves. The headlights magically reveal an encounter with a fast-moving herd of horses before the car comes to rest in front of a woman’s naked, dead body. In the morning, police arrive to investigate, and call in a local herdswoman (Dulamjav Enkhtaivan) to shoot a wolf that’s hovering round the corpse.

Working from a baseline of naturalism, director Wang and DoP Aymerick Pilarski add a distinctive streak of visual stylisation, notably in wide shots of the plain that frame the landscape to resemble an abstract painting, a thin strip of horizon dominated by a vast sky – sometimes with the addition of to-and-fro camera moves, as in the long take that introduces the characters in a drily comic, almost Keatonesque way.

Wit, warmth and philosophical speculation come together in an easy manner, in a female-centred drama that’s striking in its depiction of an independent heroine pursuing her desires and offering tender protection to an inexperienced younger man, the cop. A cast of first-timers, apparently well-versed in the ways of plains farming, give affecting, confident performances, and a closing flourish of violin and Mongolian throat singing is irresistible.