I just saw this film from it's screening on Arts Central, Singapore's premier tv channel dedicated to arts programming, and in some ways, our version of Australia's SBS (since this is our only free-to-air reception of 'exotic' foreign fair, minus the nudity & sex of course)
Iranian cinema, however 'world renowned', still remains as largely unfamiliar territory for me. I guess I have only truely seen works of Majid Majidi, courtesy of their widespread popularity and availability.
Shamefully, this is my 'first contact' with Kiarostami, considered by many to be the luminary of Iranian Cinema, and even so he only serves as the writer of this film.
I must say, looking at the plot synopisis initially, which is about a four-year old boy and his baby brother who were locked-in by their parents,I thought this will be another Iranian sentimental kid-flick along the lines of Majidi.
How wrong was I proven. Not only is this film starkingly realistic, it is also frighteningly worrying. The almost static camera, with bare minimal cuts, allows the action to play out to it's desired effects. And the performance, especially of child actor Mahnaz Ansarian who plays the main protagonist Amir Mohammad (I've lost count the number of times his name was shouted), is simply astonishing.
With almost 1 1/2 hours of depicting the child left home alone with his baby brother, locked-in with food cooking on the stove and an eventual gas leak, it does drag on to end up playing like a documentary re-enactment of a guidebook warning, listing all the dangers that the house can pose to your child. Perhaps the moral of the story is simply: Never leave your kids alone at home.
Then again, the author Kirostami is well-known for the subtexts in his work. Pondering futher, despite knowing very little about Irianian society or culture, I'm beginning to pick out other ways of interpretation. Perhaps if we look at Amir as representing Iranian youth, and his baby brother as Iranain future, with both of them being locked in (due to censorship/some kindda societal repression), it is up to the youth to find the 'key' amid all the troubles and obstacles, in order to save not only himself, but also his brother (the future). He will not be getting a lot of help, both his parents are absent, and not surprisingly, only the mother seems to be blamed (perhaps another subtext?), and those who really come forward to aid him are all women. The only 'man' character who appears in the film, the vegetables seller, only lends his voice through the loud speaker, and left the scene early without giving further assistance, despite the urgency and dangers facing the children. Another social criticism perhaps? Then again, I must stress that I have not read deeply enough to further address any issues. All these are just mere observations based on the watching of this film alone.
The length of this film, however riddled with troubles, does end on a note of hope. Not sure if the last freeze frame of Amir has anything to do with Truffaut's "400 blows", and if it does, I don't think it works quite as effectively given the different context and also a rather abrupt resolution to the build-up of this film.
Anyways, with all being said, 'Kelid' is still an interesting look at Iranian cinema and a peek into their socio-cultural world. My resolution now is to seek out the other films of Kiarostami. Perhaps only then will I have a better understanding and reading of this film...
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