Irreverent city engineer Behzad comes to a rural village in Iran to keep vigil for a dying relative. In the meanwhile the film follows his efforts to fit in with the local community and how he changes his own attitudes as a result.
Roushan Karam Elmi
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In a hospital waiting room a woman learns her daughter, Solmaz Gholami, has just given birth. The ultrasound test had prepared the family for a boy. The baby, it turns out, is a girl. The joy the mother anticipated turns to terror for she knows her son-in-law's family will abandon her daughter. The old woman flees as the in-laws arrive. On the crowded streets of Tehran - a place where women are not permitted to stay out on their own or smoke in public - two women are also on the run. Arezou and Nargess have just been granted temporary leave from prison but they have no plans to return. They manage to scrounge together enough money for the bus trip to Nargess' hometown, but she lacks proper identification, and the police are searching everyone at the station. Meanwhile, their friend Pari has just escaped from prison in order to have an abortion. Threatened with death by her brothers, she flees from her father's house and meets with a former inmate, Elham, who is now married to a doctor... Written by
Iranian director Jafar Panahi's Golden Lion winner of 2000, "Dayereh", is a critical and extremely powerful film about women who suffer from the injustices of the laws of the Islamic Republic.
As an atheist I support no religions, and I do not think one is better or more respectful to human lives than any other. "Dayereh" is a film that is concerned with religion only as far as it is a film that takes place in Iran, a country where Islamic Law dominates or even rules over the secular law. I am not an expert on Iranian law, but I do hold "Dayereh" to be the TRUTH, not a propaganda fiction of no concern to reality. Therefore, I admire Iranian directors who constantly produce magnificent films although they have to battle against censorship and the strict rule of the Ayatollah. This perhaps forces filmmakers to adapt a more poetic film semiotics, perhaps only suggesting cruelty and injustice, not showing it directly like Western directors are allowed to do.
Like Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abbas Kiarostami before him, Jafar Panahi has succeeded in producing a small, but superb film. Kambuzia Partovi's script is great, linking the misfortune and fates of several young Iranian women together into a whole narrative. All four or five women (one is not as thoroughly described) have committed unlawful acts, but their crimes are not explicitly stated in the dialogue of the film. However, we understand that their crimes would not be considered near a crime in most other countries, because it is related to sex and female independence, not to real criminality. Bahram Badakshani's camera is always close to the women, and their acting is nothing less than brilliant. The tracking movement of the camera and the shots composed by a hand-held camera result in many long takes, where the actresses get to show their skill wihtout editing. This is also a marvellous success for the director Panahi.
This film also contains a subtle symbolic factor, namely the wish for several of the women to smoke a cigarette. Different interruptions and laws concerning females and cigarettes prevent the women to smoke until one of the last scenes, when a women is arrested for travelling alone in a car with a man to whom she is not married (prostitution?). When a male prisoner is lighting up his cigarette, the woman does the same, and this time no one stops her. The smoking of the cigarette is not a symbol of freedom, because all the young women end up back in prison, but the cigarette does create a symbol of escape, although it is an escape from society, and not from the persecution of women who act like human beings (in Iran, read men). The smoking becomes Virginia Woolf's room of their own, the escape from a society that does not want them to be free.
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