Close to Eden

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Close to Eden
DVD cover
Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov
Produced by Michel Seydoux
Jean-Louis Piel
René Cleitman
Written by Rustam Ibragimbekov
Nikita Mikhalkov
Starring Bayaertu
Vladimir Gostyukhin
Music by Eduard Artemyev
Cinematography Vilen Kalyuta
Edited by Joëlle Hache
Release dates
  • 1991 (1991)
Running time
118 minutes
Country Soviet Union
Language Mongolian

Urga is a 1991 film by Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov. It is released in North America as Close to Eden. It depicts the friendship between a Russian truck driver and a Mongolian shepherd in Inner Mongolia. The film was an international co-production between companies based in Russia and France.


A Mongolian shepherd Gombo lives in a yurt in Inner Mongolia with his wife, three children, and mother. They are portrayed as unsophisticated and traditional and Gombo desires relations with his wife, to try for a fourth child, which puts his wife at unease due to Chinese law. Intoxicated Russian buffoonish truck driver Sergei has stranded himself, driving his truck into a river and is picked up by Gombo, taken to his family's yurt, to join him in dinner. Gombo's family are particularly taken with Sergei's back tattoos, later revealed to be sheet music for "On the Hills of Manchuria". Gombo and Sergei become mutual dependencies despite their language and cultural differences. Gombo and Sergei go into the nearest city together, where Gombo is supposed to buy contraceptives (condoms), buying a television set and other goods, but not contraceptives due to drugstore staff being women. Sergei, a former army bandsman, becomes drunk and sings "On the Hills of Manchuria" in a nightclub, with the band playing from his back tattoos. He is arrested and bailed out of jail by Gombo.

Gombo returns home, and along the way stops to eat. He has a strange dream featuring his drunken, horse-riding relative as Genghis Khan and his wife as the Khan's wife. In the dream both he and Sergei are captured and killed and the TV set is destroyed. Gombo awakes from his dream and arrives home with the TV. He and his family switch between watching a broadcast of the President of the US and a badly sung variety show. Gombo's wife, although saddened when learning that he bought no contraceptives, leaves the yurt, inviting him to follow her with a gesture. Gombo follows her out onto the prairie, sticking an urga (a long stick with a lasso on the end used to capture animals) into the ground in a traditional warning that a couple is being intimate. A voiceover from Gombo's fourth son, who was conceived at this time, concludes the film, and a chimney belching smoke stands where Gombo placed his urga.


Urga won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and Best European Film at the European Film Awards. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film,[1] and for a Golden Globe in the same category.


The film is credited with sparking Czech writer Petra Hůlová's initial interest in Mongolia, leading to study, then an exchange year in Ulan Bator, and then to her first novel, Paměť mojí babičce (2002; literally "in memory of my grandmother"), in English translation published as All This Belongs to Me (2009, Northwestern University Press).[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The 65th Academy Awards (1993) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Allen, Lisette, "Telling a foreign tale in a foreign tongue", Prague Post, September 30, 2009. Retrieved 2011-06-27.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Stolen Children
European Film Award for Best European Film
Succeeded by