Our Rating: ★★☆☆☆
L Factor: Minor lesbian content
Short Take: In this epic, seven western women travel on the historic Trans-Siberian Railroad. One of them will move in with a Mongolian princess.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 1989
Duration: 165 min
Language: West Germany, France/German
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Ulrike Ottinger
Writer: Ulrike Ottinger
Starring: Badema, Lydia Billiet, Christoph Eichhorn, Sevimbike Elibay, Amadeus Flossner, Irm Hermann, Xu Re Huar, Jacinta, Peter Kern, Else Nabu, Mark Reeder, Ines Sastre, Gillian Scalici, Delphine Seyrig, Nugzar Sharia
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Johanna D'Arc of MongoliaCelebrated German feminist filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger (Madame X) was the first foreigner to be granted permission to shoot in Mongolia, where she created what has been called a ‘lesbian Lawrence of Arabia.’ In this epic, seven western women travel on the historic Trans-Siberian Railroad.

One of the travelers, Lady Windermere (Delphine Seyrig), considers herself an amateur ethnologist and enjoys spending time in Mongolia. She takes a shine to the much younger Giovanna (Inès Sastre), a backpacker who moves from an area shared with goats to the luxurious private car, where she enjoys hot baths and elegant meals under the Lady’s constant gaze.

Then the journey takes an ethnographic turn, when the train is stopped by a group of camel riding Mongolian female warriors. They kidnap all of the foreign women, bringing them to a women only camp. Here the Mongolian Princess Ulun Iga (Xu Re Huar) takes Giovanna as her special friend, into her private yurt. No overt lesbian content here, but the two are very close, so much so that when the foreigners are returned to the train, Giovanna stays behind.

It is the nomadic herding lifestyle, the yurts and the landscapes that are the stars of this film. At almost three hours long, it is a rambling story, with a long set up to contrast westerners on the train to Mongolian culture. Most viewers will likely find it a challenge to stay engaged until the end. (AB)