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An elderly couple go about their routine of cleaning their gabbeh (a intricately-designed rug), while bickering gently with each other. Magically, a young woman appears, helping the two clean the rug. This young woman belongs to the clan whose history is depicted in the design of the gabbeh, and the rug recounts the story of the courtship of the young woman by a stranger from the clan. Written by
Mike Myers <email@example.com>
I always relish the opportunity of attending the Dublin Film Festival each Spring as it offers me the best opportunity to see films from around the world, especially from countries which I had never previously associated with film apart from the delayed Irish and British network screenings of foreign films. Nowadays, while the French film-making tradition is still maintained by directors such as Patrice Leconte, the other giants of world cinema such as Italy seem to be in decline and it is always good to see quality films being produced in countries hitherto without a reputation of film-making.
In recent years films from Iran seemed to have become special favourites among local critics. Normally this is enough to cause me to avoid at all costs. It usually means some form of inverse snobbery, a form of back-to-basics for filmmakers to counteract the computer-generated blockbusters of Hollywood.
The film "Gabbeh" was one which the brief programme description attracted me when it was screened three years ago and I'm certainly glad to have stuck with it as it's one of the most rewarding films I'd seen in years.
It apparently started life as a documentary about a nomadic community in the Iranian steppes who exist by selling their hand-woven colourful carpets, or "Gabbeh" and, while the scenes of their travels and carpet-making in itself would be enchanting, the seamless way in which the director meshes the documentary aspects of the film with his love-story is skilfully done.
It's a film which rewards on many levels.
Undoubtedly the gorgeous visuals, whether the colourful local costumes and traditions,or the stunning shots of nature will appeal to most viewers, as many films have their advocates who seem to find praise only for the visuals.
But it is far more than a mere travelogue or a showcase for the cinematographer. Above all, it's a lyrical tale of forbidden love, but told in a unique way which recalls the work of the masterly Armenian director, Sergo Paradjanov, in its use of wild open scenic locations, minimum sets and structures, its cryptic form of storytelling, and the supernatural filmic devices, such as the scenes when a teacher plucks the blue from the sky to match the red of the poppies from the field to educate and enchant his young pupils.
The eponymous "Gabbeh" or carpets usually tell a tale but,while many of the gabbeh which we see being woven are quite detailed and full of images, the one which the film concentrates on is the blue gabbeh whose sole image is that of a couple on horseback.
And therein lies a tale.
The film is, in the main, narrated by a beautiful young girl who we first meet beside a stream recounting her woes to the male partner of an elderly couple who is carefully washing their treasured gabbeh. We learn that she is being frustrated from marrying by her father who has caused her to delay any hope of marriage until her ageing uncle marries.
She is consoled by the old man who seeks to entice her to free him from his meaningless and empty life.
Forbidden love and its consequences, both inevitable and unexpected, are major themes in this magical film which is much more than it might at first suggest and, judging by the interpretations put upon it by many professional critics certainly demands careful if not a second viewing to appreciate its full meaning.
The director, who also made the similarly cryptic, though less lyrical, "A Moment of Innocence" uses flashback intelligently and with great subtlety and on this evidence suggests an important talent.
The film is all too short, a mere 74 minutes. But then perhaps it said everything it needed to say. And knowing when enough is enough can be an important part of a film-maker's art.
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