Director: Adilkhan Jeržanov

Country: Kazakhstan

Year: 2024

Duration: 102 min

Languages: Kazakh, Russian, subtitled in English

Category: , ,

Kazakhstani director Adilkhan Yerzhanov has channeled his distinctive directorial voice into his latest film, Steppenwolf, a stylistic homage to Westerns and 1970s revenge stories. Set on the desolate steppes of modern Kazakhstan, the film is inspired by Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf (1927), a modernist novel that explores the internal conflict inherent in the duality of human nature, between man and wolf.

The hooded prisoner on the frontier is revealed to be police detective Brayuk (Berik Aitzhanov), who has a penchant for brutal violence, sunglasses, and using dark humor to lighten the mood. Rendered nearly mute by anguish, the traumatised mother Tamara (Anna Starchenko) hires the detective to look for her son, Timka. Timka has been kidnapped by a group of criminals who are involved in illegal organ trade, led by their boss Taha. Together they leave the lawless and desolate town and take to the road, meeting absurd personalities along the way, whose survival strategies Yerzhanov’s film explores.

Using synth music and slow-paced visual storytelling to create a unique atmosphere among the vast landscapes, the film depicts the consequences of the cycle of violence. Is goodness necessary in an evil world, and does a noble cause — saving one boy — ultimately justify the means in the form of the bodies left in the wake?

Tuomo Marttila