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Bleakly memorable film that provides food for thought on the purpose and direction of life
Mohamad Sardari has served for over thirty years in his remote railway crossing station. Dutifully he has lowered and raised the crossing guard each time a train has come by. In his small home his wife sits and makes rugs from sunrise to sunset; his son has long since left to join the military. With minimal contact with the outside world, Mohamad has long since settled into his quiet, uneventful life a life that he sees no reason should ever change, nor does he desire it to do so.
Whether or not this is the brilliant film that many viewers proclaim it to be is a thing I'm unsure of but, regardless of that praise, it is certainly a memorable one that achieves a very strong sense of the remoteness and ultimate pointlessness of some lives. If you haven't already guessed yet, this is not a cheerful feel-good movie to take that girl who keeps smiling at you to for your first date. Instead this is a slow, patient film that has long periods of nothingness punctuated by sudden moments of, well, comparative inactivity. Despite this though it manages to be surprisingly engaging because it is well observed and interesting that sounds contradictory but you need to see the film to understand it.
The railway line stands as Mohamad's thin connection to a life that he has never explored one of other people, experiences and interaction; his life is empty and isolated and it is easy to relate to that sort of existence. Perhaps not physically (few of us have that amount of space or silence), or even in terms of diary entries (many of us can easily keep busy) but perhaps in terms of emotion. As Mohamad empties the only home he has known for decades, you do have to wonder what the point of it all was a thought that stayed with me as I drove to work the next day, a job I enjoy but ultimately doesn't define "me" or my meaning any more than the reviews I write here, the way I spend my weekends or anything other one thing that is fleeting in the longer term. It is not really depressing because, for all its emptiness it is thought provoking and interesting. The character of Mohamad is hard to relate to but his sense of loss at times is tangible and it was easy to go along with him to the point where I was engaged in his story. Bonyadi's performance is one of understatement, patience and understanding. Saless' direction is impressive, setting the empty tone well but also providing plenty of lingering interesting shots that add to the memorable quality of the whole film.
Well worth seeing, although you should be aware of how far removed it is from the MTV-edited, action movies that are served up as an increasingly large portion of our cinematic diet (in terms of what is on offer at multiplexes more screens, less choice). It is a bleak and empty film that has remoteness and isolation running all through it; it engaged my interest and brain equally and I imagine it will stay with me for quite some time to come.
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