Women Without Men”, One More Must See Film from Iran.

Women Without Men.

Women With­out Men.

Women With­out Men sounds like it could be one of those dull, edu­ca­tion­al chores. In fact, it’s a sump­tu­ous, rich­ly evoca­tive film that calls to mind the heady days of Ital­ian cin­e­ma in the1960s and ear­ly 70s.

Think late Vis­con­ti, De Sica’s The Gar­den of the Finzi Con­ti­nis (reviewed ear­li­er here) and the Taviani broth­ers. What if Bertoluc­ci had ever man­aged to use his tech­ni­cal bravu­ra to actu­al­ly say something.

Shirin Neshat, whose first film this is, has said that she was influ­enced by Kiarosta­mi when she decid­ed to make the move from con­cep­tu­al art into the world of fea­ture films. But she is very much part of that new wave of Iran­ian film mak­ers of Ash­gar Farha­di, who made A Sep­a­ra­tion and About Elly (reviewed here and here), and poor Jafar Panahi, (reviewed here), who, out­ra­geous­ly, remains under house arrest in Iran.

This Is Not A Film

Panahi’s This Is Not A Film.

Inter­est­ing­ly and unlike them, she is look­ing at Iran from the out­side, hav­ing lived most of her life as an exile in the US.

Neshat has tak­en Shahrnush Parisipur’s famous novel­la, which charts the lives of four women, and has posit­ed their sto­ries against the back­drop of the events of 1953. It was then that the British and the US joined forces to over­throw the demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed gov­ern­ment of Mosad­degh, and sup­plant him with a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship under the Shah, so the British could main­tain their con­trol of Iran’s oil supply.

Inevitably, indeed nec­es­sar­i­ly, rev­o­lu­tion fol­lowed 25 years lat­er. Imme­di­ate­ly after which, the same crowd armed and fund­ed Iraq in its war against Iran. And then they invad­ed Iraq, and then Afgan­istan, again, over yet more oil. And on it goes ad, patent­ly, infini­tum. Lit­tle won­der then that Iran looks at the West with such jaun­diced eyes.

Women Without Men.

Women With­out Men.

All of which could have result­ed in a painful­ly dull film, part his­tor­i­cal lec­ture, part fem­i­nist tract. But what Neshat has made instead is a mar­riage of mag­ic real­ism and exquis­ite, for­mal pre­ci­sion. The result is rav­ish­ing­ly beau­ti­ful and qui­et­ly mov­ing. Four female arche­types set against the back­drop of polit­i­cal tur­moil, in the face of which, resis­tance appears futile. And yet, resist they must.

It won the Sil­ver Lion at Venice in 2009 – in fair­ness, the Gold­en Lion went to the bril­liant Lebanon. You should see them both, and you can see the trail­er for Women With­out Men here.

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