Johanna d’Arc of Mongolia (1989) [Supported by SFS]

  • May 25, 2024 | 5:00 PM - 7:45 PM | Saturday
  • Oldham Theatre


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Year: 1989
Director: Ulrike Ottinger
Runtime: 165 min
Country: Mongolia, Germany, France
Language: Mongolian, German, French, Russian
Rating: TBA

WINNER ( Best Visual Design)
German Film Awards


In this multi-lingual and deliriously theatrical epic by Ulrike Ottinger, an unsung hero of the German New Wave and doyen of lesbian cinema, audiences are transported to the stunning steppes of Mongolia in the early 20th century. Here, the tropes of the heroine’s journey, “strangers on the train” and ethnographic travelogue are subverted in the story of Johanna, an adventurous European woman who embarks on a transformative journey. She is joined by an eclectic group of travellers aboard the Trans-Siberian express, including a Russian aristocrat, a musical theatre starlet, and others who break out in kitschy musical sequences. When their train bound for Beijing encounters bandits, the motley crew find refuge in the company of Mongolian female warriors. Led by princess Ulan Iga, the warriors’ heroine mythologies and practices challenge the attitudes of the tourists.

As one of the first foreign films to be shot in Mongolia, Ottinger crafts a feminine fiction of metamorphosis, incorporating cultural interrelation and the subtext of a love triangle between the princess and the travellers. Towing the lines of exoticism and self-critique, the Mongolian world and the warrior princess cast a reflecting light on Western attitudes in the film’s intriguing twin structure of doubles and endless reflections, sumptuously stylized in the rolling tundra of Mongolia.

For other screenings of Johanna d’Arc of Mongolia, please click here.

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