Beautiful City (2004)
"Shah-re ziba" (original title)

 |  Drama  |  11 July 2012 (France)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 2,862 users   Metascore: 69/100
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Akbar has just turned eighteen. He has been held in a rehabilitation centre for committing murder at the age of sixteen when he was condemned to death. Legally speaking, he had to reach the... See full summary »



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Cast overview:
Faramarz Gharibian ...
Abolqasem Rahmati
Babak Ansari ...
Hossein Farzi-Zadeh ...
Farhad Ghaemian
Ahu Kheradmand ...
Abolqasem's Wife


Akbar has just turned eighteen. He has been held in a rehabilitation centre for committing murder at the age of sixteen when he was condemned to death. Legally speaking, he had to reach the age of eighteen so that the conviction could be carried out. Now, Akbar is transferred to prison to await the day of his execution. A'la, a friend of Akbar, who himself has undergone imprisonment for burglary, soon after his release tries desperately to gain the consent of Akbar's plaintiff so as to stop the execution. Written by Anonymous

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11 July 2012 (France)  »

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Beautiful City  »

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User Reviews

Intense Story of Love and Death With Universal Resonance
17 March 2006 | by (Queens, NY) – See all my reviews

"Beautiful City (Shah-re ziba)" is an intense, universal story of love and death within societal strictures, as much as stories by Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Henry James, Edith Wharton, I.B. Singer or O. Henry, etc. etc. It just happens that here love from parents, children, siblings, friends, spouses and suitors has to find an outlet within Islamic law as practiced in contemporary Iran so they are silhouetted against extreme options.

Writer/director Asghar Farhadi is as observant of the power of human emotions as those masters in letting the story and characters unfold slowly like an onion. Each becomes more complex than we see at first; each has reasons motivated by strong feelings that teeter between sacrifice and fulfillment.

All the characters have choices to make - and feelings they cannot choose to control. A father's grief is as implacable as the undying love of his daughter's boyfriend. A mismatched couple (a spirited Taraneh Alidoosti as the woman "Firouzeh") falls in love without ever touching or exchanging an endearment (and completely enclosed in clothes, as a lesson to Western cinema). All know that if they compromise they will be diminished or something irretrievable will be lost. As each must ask just how far to go for love, they are trapped as much by human nature as by the stringent details of Islamic law (with resonance for any country that has legal revenge through the death penalty).

The character who takes over the heart of the film is a familiar figure in every culture - the confident negotiator who could talk the devil out of whatever, with charm, wile and persistence. A thief, he is at equal ease creatively debating with his jailer as with an imam. But in a short period of time this incipient "Milo Minderbinder" (as in "Catch 22") dramatically learns that the mysteries of the human soul may be beyond even his bargaining. Striving to save his best friend's life and finding unexpected ramifications whatever he does, young Babak Ansari as "A'la" grows before our eyes.

None of the characters is a stereotype. The jailer is like a sympathetic social worker. The imam is very practical about life (though oddly his quoting of Koranic verses aren't translated in the subtitles). The sister stands up to abuse. The teenage murderers acted out of deep love. Even the strict, abusive father is seen as crazed with a sorrow he cannot let go. So there are no Hollywood endings to their lives.

The look of the film seems like faded 1940's Hollywood Technicolor, with a bluish tinge, making it look old fashioned, even as we see a Nike cap and other miscellany of modern culture among the evocative atmosphere of crowded jails, rooms and mosques. The familiar issues of drug addiction, poverty, domestic abuse, etc. that complicate love are universal beyond the head scarves and unfamiliar architecture.

The English subtitles are always legible, turning from white to yellow against light backgrounds.

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