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The Cow (1969)
"Gaav" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  December 1974 (USA)
8.2
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 3,516 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 12 critic

The whole village knows that Mashti Hassan loves his cow to death. One day he goes to the Tehran. His cow dies. The villagers are afraid of what might happen once Hassan finds out his cow is dead. What will happen when he finds out?

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Title: The Cow (1969)

The Cow (1969) on IMDb 8.2/10

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ezzatolah Entezami ...
Masht Hassan
Mahin Shahabi ...
Hassans wife
Ali Nassirian ...
Islam
Jamshid Mashayekhi ...
Abbas
Firouz Behjat-Mohamadi
Jafar Vali ...
Kadkhoda
Khosrow Shojazadeh ...
Boy
Ezatallah Ramezanifar ...
Madman
Esmat Safavi ...
Old woman
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
Parviz Fanizadeh
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Storyline

Masht Hassan owns the only cow in a remote and desolate village. He treats the cow as his own child. When he is away, his cow dies. Knowing the relationship between Masht Hassan and his cow, the villagers hastily dispose the corpse, and when Masht Hassan comes back, they tell him that his cow ran away. Masht Hassan is devastated, he starts to spend all his time in the barn, eating hay, and slowly believes that he is the cow. Written by Sam Tabibnia <samtab@uclink.berkeley.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Drama

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Release Date:

December 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Kuh  »

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Trivia

Financed largely by the Shah's government, the producers were aghast at the finished film as they felt that it made Iran look like it was a completely backwards country. The film was only allowed to be released with a disclaimer attached stating that the events depicted happened long before the then existing regime. See more »

Connections

Featured in Cinema Iran (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Stunning in simplicity--yet a film that offers food for thought
9 December 2006 | by (Trivandrum, Kerala, India) – See all my reviews

This is a major work of cinema. It might not be well known but this film ranks with Fellini's "La Strada", De Sica's "The Bicycle Thief," or Mrinal Sen's "Oka Oori Katha" based on Premchand's story--"Coffin." Why is it a major work? A UCLA graduate makes a film far removed from Hollywood approaches to cinema in Iran during the Shah's regime. The film was made 10 years before Shah quit Iran and was promptly banned. It was smuggled out of Iran to be shown at the Venice Film Festival to win an award, even without subtitles.

The film does not require subtitles. It's visual. It's simple. The story is set in a remote Iranian village, where owning a cow for subsistence is a sign of prosperity. The barren landscape (true of a large part of Iran) reminds you of Grigory Kozintsev's film landscapes as in "Korol Lir" (the Russian King Lear) where the landscape becomes a character of the story.

The sudden unnatural death of the cow unsettles the village. Hassan, the owner of the cow, who nursed it as his own child, is away and would be shocked on his return. Eslam, the smartest among the villagers, devise a plan to bury the cow and not tell the poor man the truth. Hassan returns home and is soon so shocked that he loses his senses. He first imagines that the cow is still there and ultimately his sickness deteriorates as he imagines himself to be the cow, eats hay, and says "Hassan" his master will protect him from marauding Bolouris (bandits from another village). Eslam realizes that Hassan needs medical attention and decides to take him to the nearest hospital. He is dragged out like a cow. "Hassan" is beaten as an animal as he is not cooperative to the shock of some humanistic villagers. The demented Hassan, with the force of an animal breaks free, to seek his only freedom from reality--death.

The film stuns you. Forget Iran, forget the cow. Replace the scenario with any person close to his earthly possessions and what happens when that person is suddenly deprived of them and you will get inside the characters as Fellini, De Sica or Sen demonstrated in their cinema.

Every frame of the film is carefully chosen. The realism afforded by the story will grip any sensitive viewer. There is a visually arresting use of a small window in the wall of the cowshed through which the villagers watch the goings on within the cowshed. The directors use of the window serves two purposes--it gives the villagers a perspective of the cowshed and the viewer a perspective of the cowshed watchers.

The film is also a great essay on the effects of hiding truth from society and the cascading fallouts of such actions.

But there is more. Director Mehrjui affords layers of meaning to his "simplistic" cinema. There is veiled criticism of blind aspects religious rituals (Shia Islam), a critical look of stupid villagers dealing with their village idiots, the jealous neighbors, the indifferent neighbors, the village thief--all elements of life around us, not limited to a village in Iran. The political layering is not merely limited to the poverty but the politics of hiding truth and the long term effect it has on society. Ironically, there are values among the poorest of the poor--the hide of a "poisoned?" animal cannot be sold!

I was lucky to catch up with the rare screening of this film at the on-going International Film Festival of Kerala, India, that devoted a retrospective section of early Iranian cinema.

This is a film that should make Iran proud. It is truly a gift to world cinema.


37 of 42 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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What struck you about 'The Cow' or 'Gaav'? rudradev64
UK DVD release? andynortonuk
So... the cow is probably a metaphor for the Iranian cinema. wwolf-8
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