The protagonist in The Monkey, the final film in Abdykalykov's autobiographical trilogy, which begins with the films The Swing and The Adopted Son, straddles between adolescence and adulthood. In the final moments of summer before leaving for the army, the young hero, Maimyl, spends time with his teenage friends playing juvenile pranks while simultaneously being forced to assume the role of the mature male in his household by correcting the mistakes of his drunk father, like retrieving the motorcycle lost in an inebriated stupor. However, the film does not follow the traditional progression of a coming-to-age story: this young man does not transcend from childhood into manhood. Rather, the story concentrates on the synthesis of boy and man within the teenage individual.
Indeed, synthesis is central to the film. For example, though shot in a Kyrgyz village, Abdykalykov does not focus on Kyrgyz tradition or customs, but, instead, on the combination of peoples and cultural influences: dark Asiatic faces dance alongside pale, blue-eyed Slavic ones to Western-style rock and roll at an outdoor disco. Also, the eager anticipation of growing up, linked primarily to moments of sexual initiation in the film, collides with the unhappy reality that the adult world includes military service and the promise of cheerless marriage. And, considering the visual aesthetics of the film, the natural and manmade worlds consistently mix, thus creating unexpected beauty: red geraniums decorate the watchtower next to the railroad and an enormous concrete cylinder that offers the teenage boys refuge gracefully obstructs the flat, windswept Kyrgyz landscape.
The world surrounding and penetrating Maimyl is reflected, as Gul'nara Abikeeva notes in her book on Central Asian cinema, by a rather small, nondescript mirror in his home. In it, the young protagonist sees a reflection of himself as the animal his name indicates—a monkey. Later an argument between Maimyl's parents is captured in the reflecting glass. The teenage boys attempt to sneak peeks up a girl's skirt by attaching a mirror to their shoes. And, in the reflected profile of Katia, the young woman who works in the watchtower over the railroad, Maimyl sees only her "good side," the other side of her face on which there is a large birthmark remains out of view. In this way, the mirror reflects the main themes of the film: Maimyl's insecurities with his own appearance, his process of sexual awakening, and his family. In doing so Maimyl's personal inner world is revealed.
Aktan Abdykalykov was born in 1957 in the village of Kountouou, in the Sakoulou, region of Kyrgyzstan. Abdykalykov makes the following comments about his career: "In my work intuition helps me most of all. I did not have academic directorial training; I came to directing through practice, therefore it is necessary to depend on my innermost feeling." From 1976 until 1980 he studied at the Kyrgyz State School for the Arts. Beginning in 1980 he worked as the art director at Kygyzfilm Studios. In 1990 he made his debut as a filmmaker with the short documentary Le Chien qui court (1990). Abdykalykov has won substantial international recognition (for specific awards refer to the filmography below).
|1990||Le Chien qui court|
|1992||Where's Your Home, Snail? Jury's Prize at the International Film Festival at Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)|
|1993||La Balançoire (short) Grand Prize in the category of short films at The International Film Festival in Lokarno (Switzerland)|
|Six public service commercials funded by the Soros Foundation|
|1997||Hassan-Hussen (short) Grand Prize at the International Festival of Film Shorts in Sienna (Italy)|
|1998||The Adopted Son (Beshkempir) The "Silver Leopard" at The International Film Festival in Lokarno (Switzerland); The "Don Quixote" prize at the International Association of Film Clubs; Grand Prize at the "Eurasia" International Film Festival in Almati (Kazakhstan)|
|2000||The Bus Stop Grand Prize at Kinoshok (Russia); 2nd place at The International Film Festival in Kottbus (Germany)|
|2001||Monkey (Maimyl) Honorable Mention at Cannes|