Let my bones turn to sand and stones, and let my soul become a fish!
Askhat lives in a rural area of Kyrgyzstan, poaching fish from sacred waters to provide for his family of five. Not only is this practice illegal, but some people around Askhat consider fish poaching ignominious due to the village’s spiritual beliefs. In this Kyrgyz village, legend has it that a person’s spirit returns to water and transforms into a fish after death. Although Askhat fishes to feed his family, many people in the village refuse to eat the ancestral spirits.
This legend is the center of The Lake as it binds and strains the relationships between the main characters living in the village. Temirkul, the old, widowed history teacher befriends Askhat’s taciturn daughter Jyldyz as they are both attracted to the myth of the lake. The characters are drawn to this chillingly calm body of water and the mystery surrounding it.
We see several shots of a mystical-looking Jyldyz dressed in white standing in the water with a nosebleed, staring at the arid land. We then see the real Jyldyz with a nosebleed in the middle of class. She jumps out of her seat and rushes to the bathroom as her nose drips blood into the sink. The looming presence of the myth spreads into the small village as the dark clouds swathe the full moon above the lake. In this visually poetic way, the family drama in The Lake boils with a slow burn pace.
The Lake takes place at Lake Issyk-Kul, where many shots of the film show the metaphysical impact of landscape. While The Lake shares elements of Kyrgyz spirituality, we also see the widely unknown natural beauties of the rural Kyrgyzstan such as dark mountain peaks and periwinkle water during the early hours of a misty morning.
Asian World Film Festival’s The Lake Shows the Nature of Kyrgyzstan
The Lake displays the legend of the sacred lake and the return of ancestral souls to nature – a traditional aspect of Kyrgyz mythology. This film is perfect for someone interested in learning about an aspect of Kyrgyz mythology and its role in the lives of those who live in rural Kyrgyzstan. Someone who likes stories following family drama and a plot propelled by difficult life decisions will enjoy the tension of this film. However, The Lake has a slow beginning and there isn’t a direct plotline, so those looking for a suspenseful, fast paced plot should watch a different film.
Director and Screenwriter: Emil Atageldiev
Screenwriter and Producer: Erke Dzhumakmatova
Director of Photography: Ivan Chengich
Production Designer: Baish Ismanov
Music: Taalai Beisheev
Ainura Kachkynbek Kyzy
Images courtesy of Asian World Film Festival
About the Author: Alexis Leonard
Alexis Leonard’s passion for reading and writing began in the Hundred Acre Wood when she accompanied Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh on their friendly, imaginative adventures. At the age of seven, Alexis was inspired by this honey-loving bear and began writing her own short stories filled with magical kingdoms, eerie forests, and furry monsters. She is interested in international relations and foreign languages, practicing her language skills by reading short stories from around the globe and learning about literature from different cultures. In her spare time, you will find Alexis reading psychological thrillers, watching anime, or focusing on her own creative writing.