Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original Title: Zanan-e bedun-e mardan
Germany/Austria/France/Italy/Ukraine/Morocco/Iran, 2009. Essential Filmproduktion GmbH, Coop99 Filmproduktion, Coproduction Office, CinePostproduction, Rommel Film, BIM Distribuzione, EMC Produktion, Sota Cinema Group, Schönheitsfarm Postproduction, Manfred Bunwey Filmproduktion, Agora Films, Sundance Feature Film Program, Osterreichischer Rundfunk, MEDIA Programme of the European Union. Screenplay by Shoja Azari, Shirin Neshat, voiceovers and additional dialogue by Steven Henry Madoff, based on the novel by Shahrnoush Parispour. Cinematography by Martin Gschlacht. Produced by Philippe Bober, Martin Gschlacht, Susanne Marian, Heinrich Mis, Andreas Schreitmuller, Holger Stern, Antonin Svoboda. Music by Ryûichi Sakamoto. Production Design by Shahram Karimi, Katharina Woppermann. Costume Design by Thomas Olah. Film Editing by George Cragg, Patrick Lambertz, Jay Rabinowitz, Christof Schertenleib, Julia Wiedwald. Toronto International Film Festival 2009.
The feature film debut by photographer Shirin Neshat is a lush, absorbing drama whose political, feminist message is as much a part of its haunting atmosphere as are the sympathetic characterizations. The focus is on four women in Iran during the 1953 Coup D’Etat: a young woman obsessed with learning about current events whose brother wants her to stop listening to the radio and prepare to meet a suitor, her neighbour who witnesses her friend’s extreme act of escape, a woman who runs away from a brothel after a psychic break, and a military wife who walks away from a prominent and responsibility-laden life and buys a remote country property with a giant orchard. It is in that mystical, lush natural place that all four characters all eventually find themselves and it provides an escape from the realities of their patriarchal society whose strictures will only grow more severe with the revolution to follow in the years to come. Ryuichi Sakamoto contributes a musical score to the moments in the orchard that are part of the film’s bold embracing of magic realism which, thanks to the intelligence and depth with which Neshat and co-director Shoja Azari tell the story, is always deeply moving and never feels like a pretentious lecture.