As the country starts their film production history, Mongolian films are starting to make their way into the greater consciousness of the movie-watching world with some of their first efforts. This time around, they begin to tackle the horror/thriller realm looking at a universally-practiced genre, outing with the new effort from emerging director Delgerbayar Purevdorj called “The Gladiolus”.
Private school principal Khongorzul (Uuduu Tumendelger) is a single mom, lives with her teenage daughter Tsetseg and her son Jargal, who’s disabled. When Tsetseg falls in love with an older drug dealer Tugsuu, Khongorzul and her family’s life changes forever. Trying to find out who her daughter hangs out with, she begins to investigate and in one freak confrontation, she accidentally kills her daughter’s boyfriend. She hides the dead body and tries to live with her life as normal as possible. Dandar (Tumurkhuyag Tsegmed) is an about-to-retire detective who gets one last job to find Tugsuu and gets onto the murderers’ trail. When he finds out that he was a drug dealer and a womanizer and his murder was just an accident, Dandar helps her to get away with the murder instead of turning Khongorzul in.
While there are some limitations here, ‘Gladiolus’ does come off with some nice ideas. One of the major factors is the way this one goes about offering a localized version of attempting to execute the perfect crime. It’s a simplistic enough trope that provides the movie with an opportunity to tell a story focusing on its local audience, that will also have international appeal. Writer/director Purevdorj takes care of providing a detailed rationale and motivation for what’s going on, as the first half of the film details the setup of the girls’ relationship with Tugsuu so that the actual incident itself rings far more impactfully. With us fully aware of everything going on in short fashion, from the fractured family life and the sons’ troubles to Tsetseg being out with Tugsuu, we get a clear understanding of this world rather quickly and easily, which is a credit to
That makes the inadvertent death all that much more interesting. Coming across as a genuine accident as Tugsuu clearly is the aggressor in their confrontation and it being pure self-defense on Khongorzul’s part, the emotional impact of killing someone else registers and the race to dispose of the body leads her on a frantic and realistic race. Taking her into the desert to bury his body where a series of coincidences lead into the nomadic family that care for her, Khongorzul is able to seemingly get away with the crime and is able to return to the teaching job, obviously affected by the incident. This runs concurrent to the investigation into the incidents, ranging from the security camera footage to the rounds of questioning which brings him around to finally uncovering the truth. As the final half features the two coming together to get away with the incident and the remorse shown to hopefully come through in the end while still managing to successfully outmaneuver the policeman, this all ends on a rather satisfying and somber note.
As well, the film is also rather nicely technically accomplished. The cinematography by director of photography Bat-
Still, there are several issues with the film. One of the issues is the lapse of common sense and logic that transpires here. There’s never any real connection offered here as to how Khongorzul became ill after the realization of the first murder, leaving the entire purpose of her connection with Dandar in somewhat curious fashion. Being in the car and awaiting for the authorities to get to her when she falls out is a rather important decision to cause her as that brings them into contact with each other. As well, the overarching idea of a cop sworn to uphold the law to go willingly into helping commit a crime leaves quite a curious mark. With a somewhat leaden pace that never descends into boredom but slowly if aimlessly marches forward with a straightforward tempo can be a slight problem to overcome. There isn’t the type of frantic action a scenario like this usually produces in other entries and could be problematic. Still, there isn’t much else really wrong here.
Being a rather enjoyable thriller effort that has some interesting elements as well as some minor flaws, there’s enough to like here without being a really standout entry in the genre. This is a fine effort for those looking to dive into the country’s genre output or even viewers who are willing to give this kind of film a chance, while only those unwilling to look at this one for its positives should heed caution.