- 1h 28m
Itinerant Kurdish teachers, carrying blackboards on their backs, look for students in the hills and villages of Iran, near the Iraqi border during the Iran-Iraq war. Said falls in with a gro... Read allItinerant Kurdish teachers, carrying blackboards on their backs, look for students in the hills and villages of Iran, near the Iraqi border during the Iran-Iraq war. Said falls in with a group of old men looking for their bombed-out village; he offers to guide them, and takes as ... Read allItinerant Kurdish teachers, carrying blackboards on their backs, look for students in the hills and villages of Iran, near the Iraqi border during the Iran-Iraq war. Said falls in with a group of old men looking for their bombed-out village; he offers to guide them, and takes as his wife Halaleh, the clan's lone woman, a widow with a young son. Reeboir attaches himsel... Read all
there is a whiff of misogyny to me in these complaints. It's okay for men to make ambitious, universalising statements, but women must remain concerned with the local. Presumably Makhmalbaf would have been more political if she had concentrated on authenticating the patterns on the women's dresses. Of course, culture in general has moved towards the local: with post-modernism, very few artists have had the confidence to think on a large scale (I don't mean make large-scale films, which any fule kan do).
This is presumably why 'Blackboards' reminds me of older types of artists. Most immediately, it could be a massive Beckett play, full of wandering vagrants in a vast, desolate landscape, peopled with Lucky-like slaves, surrounded by an unseen, God-like menace, occasionally erupting in capricious violence. Like Beckett, there is no real beginning or end, no context, just a sense of never-ending repetition with the only possible relief in death.
Like Beckett (eg 'Waiting for Godot'), culture has no place in such an environment, indeed, seems a grotesque irrelevance, an incomprehensible babble, traces scraped in a landscape no-one can read now, never mind in the future. And yes, the film is as unremittingly hopeless as a Beckett play - there is no progress or redemption here. But it is as bleakly funny too - eg the whole marriage farrago between Said and Hahaleh; the game of marbles watched by her son; the tragicomic, very Beckettian inability of her aged father to relieve himself.
In the film world, 'Blackboards' reminds me of no-one so much as Angelopolous, especially in a film like 'The Travelling players', where a group of itinerant outsiders observe and become absorbed in an unfamiliar community. Makhmalbaf has Angelopolous' confidence in allegory, a way of dramatising in mythic form life and displacement under a totalitarian regime, without in any way 'abstracting' the violence and pain.
The empty landscapes suddenly being inexplicably over-run by faceless crowds also has the millenarial feel of Andersen's recent 'Songs from the second floor', or later Bunuel, from whom the theme of the journey, coming across strange, surreal strangers (eg the uncanny scene with the masked gardener whose son languishes in an Iraqi jail), or images such as the blackboard-hauling men like grounded birds watching blackbirds in the sky, and overhearing another, ominous, unseen flying object, derives. There are many, many ways of being political.
Unlike these masters, however, who prefer irony and distant tableaux, Makhmalbaf, through restless handheld camerawork, gets right in between her characters and makes us feel for them.
- the red duchess
- Apr 2, 2001