If Franz Kafka would be a film-maker

We were out to watch the new Iranian movie “Paziraie sadeh” (MODEST RECEPTION). Movie director Mani Haghighi lets his two main characters (Laila played by Taraneh Alidoosti and Kaveh by Mani Haghighi) drive through the mountains on a random search for people, whom they can hand over buckets of bank-notes they carrie with them. The actors act very statically, I got the impression though they could do much better, i.e. the director did not managed to let them show their real artistic potential. It remains very difficult for the audience to understand the personality of Leila and Kaveh, what drives them trough all the difficulties. The whole story is full of symbolism, a shrub in the desert set afire by Kaveh, a pack of wood he is carrying on their ride, an injured mule that is shot dead at the end, a man in the middle of nowhere burying his baby. All these symbolic scenes together might form a single messianic secret, but this is hidden behind the very fast cuts of the movie and the sometimes hysteric acting of the characters. I think a movie should not require a special introductory lesson for the ordinary audience to decipher and enjoy the story. Because that will always remain the essence of a movie, whether a tragedy or a comedy, a love story or a political thriller, a science fiction tale or a historic epos: Over 90 minutes or longer, we want to follow a story, characters that interact and respond, who change and develope under the influence of their experiences. I missed all this in Haghighi award winning movie here, Leila and Kaveh where exactly the same at the beginning and at the end of the movie. The only changes that occured were outside of them: The money was all given away, the car was a bit dirtier than originally, the sick mule was dead, the baby was layed down in the grave. Perhaps the most relevant impact on peoples life and destiny took place in the non-visible side-characters: most of the people that were given the bunches of bank-notes were only visible behind helmets, beards, or face scarfs. And as soon as they grabbed the money, the scenes were cut and the people were never seen any more. I would predict that for these poor people the encounter with Leila and Kaveh, that suddenly brought a lot of money for them and their families, had a much greater impact on to their life than for the two Tehrany nuveau-rich.

I had only two associations after the movie: A hopeless situation without an exit. People kept in troublesome state that only gets worse, and no sign for a solution. Very much Kafka like, so really coming from the heart of the Iranian intellectuals.
This movie convinced me that most cinematography produced inside the country gives a pessimistic impression, showing people suffering in one or the other way from the hopeless situation. The movies by Iranian ex-pats produced in Europe or the US, on the other side, show the characters as strong, active and optimistic person. I have to admit, I like this outside view more.

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