Integrity doesn’t get you far in modern day Iran. Mohammed Rasoulof gives us a slow burn commentary on his country through the eyes of one man. #MIFF2017
Reza (Reza Akhlaghirad) runs a rural fish farm with his wife Hadis (Soudabeh Belzaee) and young son. Struggling to make money, they are in debt to the bank and at the mercy of the ‘Company’ that controls the water supply. Provoked by Company heavies, Reza is arrested and soon realises he will not get fair treatment from a corrupt legal system.
Hadis and Reza’s friends caution him to keep his head down and to play the game, which means befriending the ‘right people’ and paying bribes. Reza’s pride or rebelliousness or arrogance or integrity, depending on your point of view, won’t let him do what he thinks is not right. The repercussions can’t help but escalate in an environment that relies on acquiescence and fear. At one point, a friend quotes the Reza of his youth back to him, “You are either an oppressor or the oppressed. There is no other option.” and this perfectly describes the theme of the narrative.
Rasoulof reveals the story slowly, with exquisitely sparse cinematography that takes its time to build a world of greys and blues. Akhlaghirad is mesmerising; a taciturn George Clooney, he is a pot of water heating slowly. Hadis, in contrast, is that saucepan of milk boiling over. She is stalwart, even in the face of shocking injustice. She, perhaps, represents the pragmatic majority who turn their faces away from the truth without hesitation in order to protect their own.
The ending packs a punch, not least because of its brevity and quietness. In a moment, the curtain falls away and, like Reza, we see the full narrative arc.
Have you seen this film? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.