Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dayereh (The Circle)

This is the third movie by Iranian Jafar Panahi that tells the story of women oppression in contemporary (2000) Iran. The story is told in a very different and not common way, as is told by fragments of women stories with one woman handing the narrative baton when they interact with the next one. Strange, but absolutely interesting.

This is a circular movie as the way it starts is practically the way it ends, but in a different place. Then, the director took care in selecting or building circular sets that give you sometimes a strong angst feeling.

Artistically the first scene is fabulous not only because is one long take but it’s visually amazing with white background and black near you the viewer. The picture in the left is a moment in this scene.

Another particularly interesting aspect of this movie is the camera. With the young characters the camera moves a lot, I believe those takes were taken with a handheld camera; as the characters become more mature, the camera becomes slow to end up being still when one woman rides the bus. Incredible, as the dizzying effect of the beginning slowly fades away as the stories move on.

Still this is a very simple and straightforward movie with a very disturbing story, especially if you are a woman. But, the story is told with not even one scene of violence or physical aggression. Amazing! The constant theme of women wanting to smoke a cigarette and NOT being able to do it, because of restrictions that only apply to women, is absolutely claustrophobic and when in the end one finally smokes, you feel relieved. But the story is mostly left to your imagination, you have to imagine many things about the characters and this was done on purpose by the director, he gives you the freedom to fill the story gaps with your own interpretation.

The director insists that his film is not feminist, that is humanist; in a sense I do agree as shows what oppression does to human beings, no matter the gender. But, as the woman I am and with only female characters, my mind is not able to think male with all the stimuli I got, this is a women film and as such is very strong.

I do not like to give spoilers, but if I really want to explain why this movie is circular –and I want to explain- I have to give mild spoilers. The film opens to the sound of a woman’s screams over a black screen, then everything turns white, a nurse opens a small window, she calls a name and announces that a baby girl is born. The film closes in a cell at a police station, a policeman approaches the small window, calls the same name, the woman was transferred, shuts the small window and black screen. The parallel alone between the maternity ward and the police station is shocking in any film, but in this film is a very radical statement that works as summary of the total film..

The acting is good and was a surprise to find that only two women are professionals, the others are non-professionals, but all outstandingly convey a sense of constant fear and danger.. The movie won the 2000 Golden Lion for Jafar Panahi in the Venice Film Festival, but has 10 other wins and 3 nominations in awards and festivals around the world.

Absolutely not for all audiences and not even for those that like art cinema, even do is a fantastic, extremely well-done in many technical aspects, the end product does not feel like art cinema, it feels like a mix of documentary and film. This is a movie for film lovers and cinephiles that want to see a truly film masterpiece. But I also say that this is a movie for women and every woman in the world should see it, even if Iran women wont be able, as the film has been banned there.

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