Entries tagged with “Iran”.


Films are one good media for taking the pulse of a society at a certain moment in time, for surfacing explicitly or implicitly its problems, for making it known beyond borders of countries or cultures. Iran is a country little and badly known in the world. We may read or listen a lot about its politicians and external conflicts, we know very little about the day-to-day life in the country, about the problems, feelings and dreams of its people. This is why films coming from Iran raise interest and those coming from a fine film-maker as Ashgar Farhadi are among the best.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5186714/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5186714/

 

Watching a film like The Salesman is an exercise not too different than the one we experience(d) when we are (were) watching in the 60s, 70s, 80s films coming from the Soviet Union, Poland, or other countries under Communist rule. It is important to watch what you see on screen to its most minuscule detail that can hide hints or symbols. It is even more important to think about what you cannot see on screen, which you know could not be said because of censorship, or maybe it was said and fell on the floor because of different types of pressure. This film is the story of a family drama triggered by the brutal attack on a married woman. She and her husband (both middle class intellectuals, amateur actors playing ‘Death of a Salesman’ in the evenings’) do not go to the police to put a complain because they know the system is corrupt and biased against the woman, rather then protecting her and trying to find and punish the criminal. We are in the Middle East however, and honor plays an important role, so the husband engages in a personal vendetta which has as a goal not necessarily vengeance but recovering the honor of the victim and exposing the attacker to the blame of his own family. The subtle insertion of theater in film hints to many other aspects that are rather implicit than explicit – the attraction to the Western culture, the cosmetic changes brought to the play, actors, costumes in order to make it acceptable to the Islamic religious norms.

 

(video source Amazon Studios)

 

There is another comparison to be made with another film that was a candidate this year at the Best Foreign Language Award at the Academy (which The Salesman won) - ‘s Elle. In both films we deal with aftermaths of brutal attacks on women – but what a difference between the attitude of the two women – and the reasons are clearly psychological and cultural.

The film-making style looks familiar to viewers who have been exposed to Middle East cinema. The story telling, some of the dialogues, the relations between the characters reminded me dome of the Israeli ‘burekas’ movies, with families and neighbors interaction, with the mix of comedy and melodrama. Director develops this approach much beyond its limits, aiming to reach a more international audience with the relation to Arthur Miller’s play. He is helped by the splendid acting of his two lead actors and  who both give expressive and discrete performances, full of controlled passion and dignity, which make the tough situations described on screen more easy to follow. I was less impressed by the final solution where life seems to follow its own rule and the characters lose voice in face of stronger forces. This sounded a little anti-climax and undecided. I will not say however more, in order to avoid telling too much about a film I do recommend to all viewers.

Director Nahid Persson is born in Iran, from a family who was actively opposed to the regime of the Shah. As a young Communist she was among the million of youth who cheered in the streets when the revolution broke and the Shah and his wife, empress Farah flew the country. Although they lived in the same country, the two women were separated by huge social and political differences, and for Nahid as for many Iranians the fairy tale lives of the royals had become the symbols of corruption and repression. Yet, soon after the revolution the dreams of democracy and of a better life proved to be illusions and Nahid and her family found themselves again on the side of the opposition, and eventually had to flew Iran.

(video source seventheart)

Thirty years after the revolution the Sweden-settled Persson looks back in this documentary to the time of the revolution, and tries and succeeds to meet the former empress, now living as a refugee, but a different kind of refugee, in order to understand not only what she has become, but also her own feelings towards a woman who decades ago symbolized for her evil, and now is living at least from some aspects a similar life of longing for the lost country. The film includes the interviews with Farah, and these are more or less what you can expect. The former empress is living the life of a high-class, jet-style refugee. Her views did not seem to have changed too much in the decades since the fall from power of the Shah. Neither does the director want to push too hard questions on her. These are asked a few time off-screen, but they seem to have been shared much more with the viewers of the film than with the subject of the interviews. Maybe it’s a sign of respect, or maybe it is the strong and fascinating personality of Farah who wins the heart of the director, or maybe the shared fate of the two women is more important than any other story told in the film. Made and issued to screens around the time when many other documentary films about the fall of the Shah and the Islamic revolution were made 30 years after the events, ‘The Queen and I’ is one of the more interesting, and the human story occupies a better place in this film than the political one.