I have no idea what this Iranian film is about. It’s stylish, unconventional and full of beautiful moments and promise but ultimately I felt I was missing out on a cultural context that may have made sense of the story. It begins as a drama with a man, Babak, recounting to an investigator the events that had led up to that moment. We then see the events unfold; he is sent to make a report on a man who has killed himself on the island of Qeshm. He was an ‘exile’ living alone in a derelict boat in the middle of a desert cemetery and Babak can see that he was murdered. His investigations begin to reveal surreal and confusing facts.
The film then more or less abandons a linear narrative and pulls back to reveal the director and various other people talking about the story in documentary form. We weave between drama, documentary, various time lines and there are surreal and fantastical elements that are never fully revealed. We are not sure what is true and what is metaphorical. Small facts are mentioned but their significance is unclear; the president has been assassinated, the cemetery is the site of a massacre by the Portuguese, there is a secret order of spies using an ancient coded language.
The cinematography and locations are beautiful, the use of sound and music a noticeable and emotive counterpoint to the action. I wish this had been a more coherent experience that left me with a greater understanding or at least just a bit more satisfaction.
Bechdel test – fail