پناه فیلم

CRITIQUE  FILM

“ A Light in the Fog ”

“ Cheraghi dar meh ”

After the successful screening of his first feature in New Currents section in Pusan Film Festival in Korea, critics of the two journals Variety and Hollywood Reporter acclaimed the film greatly. On 7 October 2008, Russell Edwards the critic of Variety described the film in this way: “ A Light in the Fog “ is a singularly assured feature film bow that is as understated as the best of Iranian cinema. With this flawlessly designed and exquisitely photographed work, shorts filmmaker Panahbarkhoda Rezaee has created a genuine masterpiece. In terms of plot, Panahbarkhoda Rezaee’s script is absolutely minimalist. Helming is as precise as the Islamic call for prayer, and devoutly humanistic in execution.Every moment is beautifully composed, and the transitions from shot to shot are methodically linked, demonstrating Rezaee’s humble but superb command of cinema. Complementing these images is the fastidious audio track. Soundscape gently embellishes visuals with a myriad of details.

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FILM CRITIQUE

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

By Elizabeth Kerr

The critic of Hollywood Reporter wrote on 8 October 2008,we read : The debut feature by shorts filmmaker Panahbarkhoda Rezaee, ” A Light in the Fog “, is a nearly perfect example of purely visual filmmaking that won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

ئن

FILM CRITIQUE  

In the report of the cinema critics of Copenhagen Film Festival on 22 April 2009, we read : Iranian film has perfected personal minimalism, and Panahbarkhoda Rezaee masters this art as well as anyone. His background in short films serves him well in this poetic and beautiful film. The story couldn’t be more simple and the outcome no more magnificent. Rezaee’s discreet influence can be felt in every scene, as he displays a sensual awareness that is expressed in both the sounds and the images. The film has been shot in long takes, as if Rezaee doesn’t want to interrupt a scene with editing, so that it can full unfold, and it’s this balance between minimalist perfection and intimate grandiosity that lends ” A Light in the Fog “ its own power, Rezaee is not on his way to become one of Iran’s great directors. He’s there already.

FILM CRITIQUE

In the report of the cinema critics of Edinburgh Film Festival in June 2009, we read :

The new Iranian Sokurov

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An hypnotically beautiful portrait of a widow and her ailing father, who live alone on a misty hillside and scrape a living by mending oil lamps and making charcoal. The film’s elegant compositions and quietly powerful performances slowly envelop us in the widow’s simple, poignant world.

 In its meditative rhythm, painterly long-take shooting, and preference for atmospheric compositions over narrative drive, Rezaee’s exquisite debut recalls such masterpieces as Sohrab Shahid Saless’ Still Life and Sokurov’s Mother and Son. An austere and mesmerising triumph. Like the former, it explores the lives of people who live in a thin peripheral economy, wrapped up hermetically in their private dedication to repetitive labour. Like the latter, Rezaee sets a small, intensely personal story of filial devotion within the framework of a vast and mysterious landscape, whose every nuance seems to gloss the human drama it conceals. The film builds a stark dichotomy between indoors and outdoors. Ali Mohammad Ghasemi’s masterful landscape shooting makes gorgeous use of cloud, fog, and half-seen hillsides, to develop a sense of moody, inscrutable vastness. By contrast, the exquisitely composed indoor scenes evince a palpably humane intimacy, using strong chiaroscuro to display widow and father, warmly lit, amongst the deep shadows of their rustic home. They mend lamps, working wordlessly, with the quiet patience of those driven by hard necessity. Through this labour, and in their mutual care, the pair find a quiet rapture. In this way, their humble lives form an island of warmth in the cold immensity beyond – they are ” A Lights in the Fog “. Rezaee punctuates his highly atmospheric, meditative scenario with moments of piercing beauty and rich symbolism. One such moment is the widow and father’s visit to a mosque. Shafts of golden sunlight percolate horizontally through the darkened room, offering a rare dose of strikingly perspectival imaging in a film that’s dominated by mainly two-dimensional compositions (the pervasive fog dampens the sense of perceived depth in many scenes). The lighting in the mosque scene thus offers a succinct metaphor for the characters’ spiritual experience during their visit. This is efficient, powerfully elegant filmmaking. This utterly assured use of formal qualities in lighting and image composition to achieve intensely poetic goals marks Rezaee out as a major new filmmaking talent.

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FILM CRITIQUE

Pusan Film Festival, A Window on Asian Cinema, 2011

By Roman Gutek

Panahbarkhoda Rezaee is part of the Iranian minimalist movement. His films take place in the raw snowy landscape of his childhood, in small communities on the outskirts of civilization. The leading characters of Daughter… Father… Daughter are sisters who live with their father in picturesque badlands, which Rezaee carefully depicts in every shot in detail as if this were not a film but a photoplasticon filled with his artistic images. The women hunt for birds, one of them is immobilized by illness, the old man sells fuel to locals, with a truck driver’s visits providing the sole entertainment. The family story develops slowly, marked by menial repetitive chores, the inescapable passage of hours, days, and weeks, with budding emotions between one of the sisters and the truck driver observed from afar. The film makes a tremendous visual impact that provokes interpretations reaching far beyond the spare and subtle plot.

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Daughter… Father… Daughter is set in a stark and wintry western Iran. We follow the lonely existence of three sisters and their father in a hinterland so remote that it might as well be the edge of the world. The narrative is built on fragmentary imagery: the women hunt for birds, the father sells fuel to other locals, evenings are spent watching TV, and occasional visits from a truck driver relieve their isolation. The film lives by its own measured rhythm, in which the routine of days, though seemingly monotonous and slow, nevertheless hums with an intangible magic. Iranian cinema has accustomed us to young heroes, symbolism, and political generalizations. This film is different – unusual, contemplative. Rezaee’s meticulous attention to image endows the film with exceptional visual qualities, in perfect balance with its narrative intentions and tone. For me, it was one of the major revelations of the past year.

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FILM CRITIQUE 

 By Mohammad Haqiqat , France

Critique of the Feature Film Daughter…Mother…Daughter on the occasion of its screening in Art and Experience Cinema, printed in Banifilm Cinema Newspaper, 8 April 2015

Watching poetry!

In today’s cinema of the world when most of the filmmakers have got close to the audience’s taste more than any other time, the making of Daughter…Mother…Daughter by Panahbarkhoda Rezaee finds a special place. The filmmaker, without trying the least to please the audience, has reached a career maturity. Each shot – with its breath-taking beauty – reminds the viewer uncontrollably of poetry. As if, the filmmaker invites his audience to watch poetry. The images are like a poem you don’t remember where you have read or heard!

The first sequence starts with the close-up of a mother who mesmerises you with a wrinkled face like an arid field. In the background, a scorched desert in a golden yellow looks like a Chagall work, painted with precision.

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Such a mise en scène is indicative of the director’s cleverness and the precision of the cinematographer (Mehdi Rezaee), as if the image has been taken centuries ago. After a few moments, however, the audience is connected to the present world. The sound of an airplane is heard in the sky and then the voice of a man in a poetic and woebegone tone (voice of Ahmad Reza Ahmadi, the poet) describes the face. His first sentence is, “The woman’s face has turned into a stone statue…”

In the same shot and in deep background, we discover a sign of the present time. The sound of the airplane we had heard before, brings the audience back and at the end of the shot, the slow passing of an airplane is seen that reminds the audience of the passage of time and the present time with a subtle symbol; otherwise, one might think the scene had been painted on canvas by a painter many centuries ago!

The filmmaker then deals with the life of a rustic family where women have the most presence. A grandmother, whose life has been summarised in spinning thread, reveals the repletion of life and its boredom. The passage of time can be felt by the sound of the train that has been employed most cleverly, but it seems the time does not move. The filmmaker depicts the static time and dynamic time simultaneously in his film. Later we see a paralysed girl who seems to be in sickbed eternally, waiting for something which might be a miracle. Will her family take her somewhere else some day, to a town where the technological advancement is, so she will be healed? Until the father returns, however, this girl must probably wait.

And her mother; in a vast plain, beside the railway, she is waiting for her man who has left many years ago, and now she is looking at the plain. Is hope the only way to survival? This might be the only thing the woman (the mother of this daughter) has her hopes on. Meantime, the viewer, on the one hand tastes a rich visual exhilaration, and on the other hand listens to the warm voice of Ahmad Reza Ahmad, telling the love story of this woman and how she and her lover lived on this land when they were young.

Waiting leads to looking well, to thinking, to visualising, to imagining. By watching motionless shots, the viewers are faced with some tableaus of the nature in front of them and can search in the dimensions of what has been presented to them patiently. But what they find?

Nobody sees anything. There is no man. Imagination and visualisation, in search of the two lovers in the ochre plain with lush green individual trees that are the symbols of life, give form to this love story. The sun – risen over the dancing pine trees – is shining onto the woman who has found herself beside her fiancé, and what passion had been exchanged between them! What happened that her man went on a long journey and she is still waiting? And now after many years, only sinewy hands are left of the woman, the hands with which she combs the hair of her daughter. And during the days, she is awaiting on the edge of a desert leading to the village, by the railway, in the blowing wind.

In one shot of the film, the ailing daughter is still lying on bed, her mother beside her, and the grandmother on the other side of the room, continuing the eternal spinning, they are all watching a film on the television; a film which is clearly reminiscent of Still Life, the masterpiece by Sohrab Shahid Sales, and it reminds us of the shot when the old woman wanted to thread a needle. The rhythm of the film is like the work of Sohrab Shahid Sales and undoubtedly a tribute to the great filmmaker by Panahbarkhoda Rezaee. On the other hand, the atmosphere of the film and the monologues are reminiscent of the film The House Is Black the eternal work by Foroogh Farrokhzad.

In this film of Panahbarkhoda Rezaee, the work on the sounds, mises en scène, the shot frames, and everything else have been done precisely and patiently and that is why the film requires the precision and patience of the audience too. This type of cinema that has its own arrangement seems a little formalistic and minimalistic and has its own unique artistic character.

This type of the cinema requires the audience to take part in the film and get along with it. It is a type of cinema that is screened less often day by day in the world’s cinema halls. Such a cinema needs the extensive support from the critics and especially its audience so that their authors can continue making different and unconventional films.

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FILM CRITIQUE

By Rasool Nazarzadeh

Critique of the Feature Film Daughter…Mother…Daughter in 2014 Fajr Film Festival

News Code: A238218

Date of Publication : Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Passing from observational portrayal shots to composite multi-layered shots

Among the films of the main section of the festival with its glitz and glamour, easy come money, and the sensation of its stars, it seems that the feature film Daughter…Mother…Daughter by Panahbarkhoda Rezaee with its different perspective and long and stationary shots, talks about a totally different world in the section A Certain Regard. The world of the forgotten humans and the unseen geography as if the eye of no camera has ever got close to its atmosphere; to its nights, days, deserts, sparse trees, and the trains that pass by it like a corpse; to its faraway, abandoned, and tired people who are staring at the horizon and gaze at the vast void beyond the winds. With its long and faraway shots, the eye of the camera in this film is not after the exotic perspective and exaggerated sullying. Rather, it is mostly after the result of the simultaneity and the polyphony of the images with poetic words (in the voice of Ahmad Reza Ahmadi). There is neither characterisation nor story in the film Daughter…Mother…Daughter, neither the villagers nor their sociology, nor even its living people. As if, we are faced more with portrait-like and photographic images. The portrait of a few persons with a constant and vacant gaze, who – mostly in the corner or middle of the image – stare at the camera of the audience’s eye.

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 Sometimes they are not different from other objects and have a constant and motionless form like other objects, fixed in the place. It seems they do not have a wish or a dream any more and have got used to a dreamless life. Their waiting for the return of a man who can make a change in their life has been to no avail and will remain to no avail. But in this deathlike silence and extensive wordlessness, they have not stepped into the world of words yet. What is manifested more than anything else in the faces is the trace of years of wind, years of naked sunlight, and years of the hard geography and working hard in silence, on their skins and the portrait of the faces and their dead and fixed gaze in a primordial background. Seemingly, they have united with the tough and rough mountainous nature and they have come to terms with their little share of the winds and mountains and with ‘forgetting’. The lexicon and voice of Ahmad Reza Ahmadi seem to have made words mainly on the basis of this atmosphere.

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A few important features of the film are as follow :

The connection between poetic words and photographic images

The words or the narrator’s voice (the voice of Ahmad Reza Ahmadi in a clear poetic form) in Daughter…Mother…Daughter sometimes talk about the relation between the person in the image and the objects or things and what has happened in the past, like when it talks about the trees that were saplings when the woman and the man were young. It sometimes talks about the memory and mentality of the people and talks about an internal connection which is not seen in the image, like when it talks about the woman’s similarity to the withered tree or the connection of the movements of the curtain in the wind and the girl’s illness. It is in these parts that the simultaneity of the shots, which do not have only photographic and observing aspects, and what the words make, a multi-faceted and poetic prism is created in the film, which is dwelled on the mind and perception of the audience.

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Passing from observatory portrayal shots to composite multi-layered shots

After passing from the portrait-like images and recurring words to multi-layered images and recurring words, the movement of the film changes to the multi-layered images and words – which is seeking in itself too. In this part, the audience is not the consumer and slave of the images any more, and he or she creates the screen, images, and words and it turns into a participating and constructive presence in the film. The main action at this time is not turning the photos of the film from a far-away land. Rather, it happens mostly inside the audience and takes him or her along itself. The rhythm and contradiction inside and outside the images and words collide and change their death-like state; a third eye that takes form inside the mind of the audience. And a clear story is not told. Weren’t it for the few references of the narrator, we would not find out about the death of the grandmother and the immigration of the family’s son to the town. The elimination of each is manifested only in their absence in the shot. There is no sign of the grandmother’s grave or the immigration of the son and his preoccupations. As if everything is happening off the screen and there is not any significant change in the images. Like all those years that passed in this accustomed geography and have not made a change in the life of its people.

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Coming out of sentimentalism

Although the words of the narrator create new tenderness and connection, there is no sign of sentimentalism in the images. The hard land, the mountainous geography, and tired persons with fixed faces devoid of any feeling and the dead colours of ochre and grey and yellow and the continued silence of the persons that do not talk to each other, do not allow the film to have a romantic poeticism. There is not any sign of love feeling and instinctive laughter or even the nature of the orchards and seasons. We seem to be mostly faced with the end of the world and a dead end. There is not even much depression in the faces. It is mainly the hardness of the passage of time and disappointment with a certain type of trivial life. The trees and fruits and seasons do not seem kind either and the shots are mainly vacant long shots or extreme long shots. Animals, children, school, clinic, police station… are not seen. We seem to be in a static and constant and eternal time when the earth and sky have turned their faces from the people.

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FILM CRITIQUE

Critique of the Feature Film A Cradle for Mother in 2012 Fajr Film Festival

News Code: 37835

Date of Publication: 6 February 2013

A Cradle for Mother won most awards in the International Section of 2013 Fajr Film Festival.

A Cradle for Mother was in the International Section of 2013 Fajr Film Festival and won three Crystal Simorgh trophies, namely Best Directing award for Panahbarkhoda Rezaee, Best Actress award for Elham Hamidi, and Best Technical and Artistic Achievement award for Mohammad Ahmadi.

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FILM CRITIQUE

Critique of the Feature Film A Cradle for Mother in 2013 Fajr Film Festival

By Soroosh Mamdoohi, Wednesday 7 February 2013

The first feature film in the history of the Iranian cinema about a female theology student

A Cradle for Mother by Panahbarkhoda Rezaee is the first feature in the history of the Iranian cinema about a female theology student with a social and spiritual theme. The film narrates the humane relationship between the mother and daughter well. The most important preoccupation of the filmmaker is dealt with in this film by being inspired by the Holy Quran and dealing with ethical issues. With a social drama and a spiritual theme in an urban atmosphere, the film deals with the life of a female theology student for the first time in the history of the Iranian cinema. Nargess is a young girl who has finished Russian literature in University of Moscow and is now studying theology. She is going to return to Russia to teach students who have newly converted to Islam, but…

Cast: Elham Hamidi, Chakameh Chamanmah, Maliheh Nikjoomand, Afsar Asadi, Ghazal Saremi, Mehran Rajabi, and Amir Aghaee.

Director: Panahbarkhoda Rezaee. Scriptwriter: Hossein Mahkam (based on an idea by Panahbarkhoda Rezaee). Director of photography: Mohammad Ahmadi. Editor: Mastaneh Mohajer. Music: Peiman Yazdaniyan. Makeup Designer: Mehrdad Mirkiyani. Sound Recordist: Abbas Rastegarpoor. Sound Designer: Amirhossein Qasemi. Set and Costume Designer: Babak Karimitari. Production Manager: Abbas Kalantari. Programmer and First Assistant Director: Roozbeh Sajjadihosseini. Gaffer: Ebadollah Behafrooz. First Assistant Camera Operator: Ebrahim Ashrafi. Still Photographer: Masoud Ashtari. Behind the Scene Camera Operator: Mehdi Rezaee. Producers: Panahbarkhoda Rezaee, Mohammad Ahmadi.

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FILM CRITIQUE 

Critique of the Feature Film A Cradle for Mother in Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency

By Mojtaba Rahmandoost, 13 March 2013

A Cradle for Mother, a noble film in harmony with the humane transcendent values

Mojtaba Rahmandoost, member of Social Commission of the Parliament, called the feature A Cradle for Mother “a noble film in harmony with the humane transcendent values” that turns back the audience to its nature. According to Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency, the member of Social Commission of the Parliament has written a note about A Cradle for Mother:

I thank God I watched a worthy film after a long time. A well-constructed film with attractive and calculated mises en scène and an appropriate and serene rhythm, which revives the mentality of the first post-revolution years. A natural, heartfelt, and humane film that returns the audience to its nature. A noble and worthy film that must be watched. The problem so far has been that many films cannot be watched with the family, but this film is recommended to be watched with the family. A film with a humane and international subject, the subject that is valuable in every school and ideology, namely mother. A film in which saying prayers has for the first time a special place and the most important problem is to choose a nurse for the mother. The leading actress, Elham Hamidi, displays a good performance that is in harmony with the theme of the film, and with her presence in the film in the role of a girl who has studied in Russia and then started studying theology, she makes possible dealing with the theme of sisters’ theology school with beautiful and proper images and atmospheres. I congratulate the intelligent and up-to-date director of the beautiful film, my brother Mr Panahbarkhoda Rezaee and admire the directing of A Cradle for Mother.

FILM CRITIQUE

Critique of the Feature Film A Cradle for Mother in 2013 Fajr Film Festival

News Code: 226224

Date of Publication: 4 February 2013

A Cradle for Mother; a path between wisdom and love!

Cultural desk of Students News Agency; A Cradle for Mother by Panahbarkhoda Rezaee is one of the prominent and worth deliberation films of this year’s Fajr Film Festival. The film is ‘prominent’ from one aspect and ‘worth deliberation’ from another aspect. Going beyond the repetitious stories and ideas, the clichés that happen in a flat and have become a contagious disease in the Iranian cinema in the recent years, and paying attention and focusing on a novel and unprecedented situation and story and idea and expanding it in the atmosphere of a theology school, distinguish this film from other works in the Iranian cinema. The value of the film lies in its altruistic and loving aspect and believing in the ethics and moving on the path of human and his honours that are the criterion and focal point in this film. The film A Cradle for Mother by Panahbarkhoda Reza’ee can be considered one of the spiritual works of the Iranian cinema in its new year, which makes the audience face one of the most serious yet most accessible situations and decisions in its life. “Dignity of mother”. With a soft and tender storytelling and scenic and serene visual merits, the film creates a situation so that the audience can look from another angle and perspective at life and its concepts and its tests, and find a new look at the issues such as his duty and commitment in his spiritual life.

Panahbarkhoda Rezaee’s film is without a doubt one of the noticeable and admirable works among the spiritual and verism films in their true and real sense of the words; a film as a token of gratitude to all kindness of all mothers of the world, a commendable film!

FILM CRITIQUE

Critique of the Feature Film A Cradle for Mother in Cinema and Theatre, Iran News 24

News Code: 8600

Date of Publication: 18 February 2013

Sanctifying mother by cinema

Panahbarkhoda Rezaee drew the attention of many people in the cinema in the festival with his film A Cradle for Mother. The film, which with a novel and new theme sanctifies the lofty position of mother in the Iranian and Islamic culture, drew the attention of the audience and experts of the Iranian cinema with its interesting story and visual beauties.

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FILM CRITIQUE

By Hamed Tehranimoqaddam

The educational perspective of the film A Cradle for Mother

One can has a deep educational look at the film from a few aspects; to employ ‘religious education’ concepts and teachings in the form of a screenplay and providing a cinematic work has its own hardship, and it is the commitment and caring of the faithful artist, that root in his spirituality, together with the Divine help enables him to make a film with a religious theme. The film A Cradle for Mother, with the exquisite performance of its leading role, is among the rare works in this field. By looking carefully at the screenplay, one can consider Reza’ee’s work a film with a totally ‘educational’ content. With an utterly religious perspective, the film has dealt with this theme and has been able to play its role well both in the screenplay and in the directing, and it is a successful film in this regard. That is why it is suggested to the dear colleagues in the educational system not to forget to take the student to watch the film

Manifestation of the real love on the cinema screen

Failing to screen films appropriate to the atmosphere of the holy month of Ramadan has always been one of the shortcomings of the management of the screening in the country’s cinema. This year, however, a film has been screened for the public in an unprecedented act that answers the needs of the audience who is seeking truth in these spiritual days and nights. The film A Cradle for Mother is one of the humble and modest films in 31st Fajr Film Festival, which because of its cultural and artistic merits, could win three Chrystal Simorgh trophies in the international section of the festival.

A Cradle for Mother is the third feature film of its director. Panahbarkhoda Rezaee has so far made A Light in the Fog, Daughter…Mother…Daughter, and numerous video, short, and documentary films. He has employed a novel and new theme in the Iranian cinema in his new work; the life of a female theology student. The film is classified among spiritual and ethical films. However, it has passed the abyss of giving mottos and preaching and has been able to portrait its theme in the form of a dramatic story. The engine of the drama in the film is that a young female theology student faces a dilemma; to have a good job opportunity or lose the opportunity and do a great self-sacrificing feat. She receives an invitation from a university in Moscow to go to Russia and teach theology students who have newly converted to Islam; a rare opportunity for someone at the young age. There is not any obstacle before the protagonist of the film to get the fantastic and rare chance. At the same time, however, her mother needs a company. The girl can of course take her mother to a rest home, but by waiving her chance to get an important and considerable job, she reaches the peak of humanity. She declines the chance and chooses to look after her mother. To create heroes is one of the tricks the filmmakers use to create attraction. The heroes of the films usually possess specific appearances such as physical and mental strength and beauty. They are fake heroes made of straw, but Nargess in A Cradle for Mother is a real and tangible hero; a young woman who puts behind her carnal needs and opens the path of salvation to herself. The theme of the film, however, is not limited to this; the focal point of the film’s content is a dear and sacred issue. ‘Mother’ is a lofty and valuable concept in our cultural system. In addition to the Quran and narrations, there are few ethical and literal quotes in our culture that have not mentioned the transcendent position of mothers. This valued approach has this time moved from the holy and ethical literature to the cinema with the film A Cradle for Mother. Naturally, the issue of mother had been dealt with in the Iranian films before; Mother by Ali Hatami and M as in Mother by Rasool Mollaqolipoor are among the distinguished samples that had portrayed the lofty truth of mother. The main difference between A Cradle for Mother and them is that in those films, the mother has a self-sacrificing position, but this time, it is the child that does a self-sacrificing act for her mother. This film has been made and screened in a situation that unfortunately, most of our works in the cinema in the past few years have targeted family and in the style of the European and Hollywood films, and propagate cheating and running from the family. Dealing with the life of the female theology students is among the novel and unprecedented issues that has not received attention in our cinema so far. The film has tried – by showing the life of a female theology student – while making a hero of an Iranian woman, to provide an ethical and characteristic model for the new generation.

Choosing Russia as one of the elements of the film’s story has been a clever choice, because Russia has been one of the hubs of inclination towards Islam in the past two decades, and the film can strengthen the connection and dialogue between Muslims and Shiites of Russia and the Iranian people. In addition, A Cradle for Mother is among the few films in the Iranian cinema that has gone beyond the problem of using Tehran excessively and by choosing the beautiful town of Yazd as the place of the film events, has taken a different form. In general, the film A Cradle for Mother is one of the respectable and special works in the Iranian cinema in the recent years, which has an atmosphere that suits the spiritual and divine atmosphere of the holy month of Ramadan.

FILM CRITIQUE

By Mehdi Jamshidi

To be at a loss between ‘ethical conscience’ and ‘profiteering wisdom

In the film A Cradle for Mother, the theology student girl does not have to abandon studying on the basis of ‘law’ or ‘tradition’ and to look after her old and frail mother, because she can take her to a rest home or at least employ someone to work in her mother’s house and answer some of her needs and take care of her. However, she does not resort to any of these alternatives that are approved by the expediency and partial wisdom, and she herself takes up the responsibility to serve her mother. Without a doubt, this act is the absolute example of ‘ethical deed’. In the past decades, we have faced various conceptual dualities, and each of them occupied a part of the intellectual and social mind: “popular cinema / intellectual cinema”, “ethical cinema / vulgar cinema”, “national cinema / antinational cinema”, “revolutionary cinema / counterrevolutionary or non-revolutionary cinema”, “religious cinema / secular cinema”, “artistic cinema / commercial cinema”… We the religious and revolutionary forces still have not been able to accumulate and express our ideals and demands under one dignified and religious term. All these realities must be our moving force and motivation for the formation of the condensed theoretical effort for the theorisation and production of thought. On the other hand, however, sometimes some worthy artistic and cinematic works emerge from the very same undesirable and unwanted realities, which can be regarded as the objective examples of religious and revolutionary art. The writer believes that the film A Cradle for Mother is one of those works.

 

The story of the internal struggle and fight* between ‘wisdom’ and ‘self’

The film A Cradle for Mother is by nature an ‘ethical’ (or spiritual) film that – of course – has gone behind the personal and individual level and has assumed an undeniable ‘social’ aspect. In addition, ethically speaking, the film has risen from the speculative and practical philosophy of Islam, not from the secular and western schools. Some films in the recent years have dealt with ethical or pseudo-ethical themes but they lack the Islamic identity, but the film A Cradle for Mother is not so. The focal point of the plot of the film is in the inner nature of the protagonist (the theology student girl); a theology student girl who has been faced with ‘inner struggle and fight’ because she has to choose between two options. The said inner struggle is prevalent throughout the film, while ‘wisdom’ is on the one side and ‘self’ on the other side. Therefore, the film has truly brought up a lofty and profound theme. The ethical and religious conscience of the theology student girl tells her to ‘nurse her old mother’ instead of ‘studying religious sciences’, ‘teaching religious sciences abroad’, and ‘marriage’, and not to send her mother to a rest home. Although studying or teaching religious sciences are sacred and spiritual issues, but if attachment to them leads to the resistance against humane and religious duties, they will become a certain ‘hijab’ and the example of ‘love for the material world’.

 

The crawling birth and reproduction of ‘ethical materialism’ in our society

Unfortunately, our religious society has severely been afflicted by ‘unethical’ problems and harms during the past two decades and has sustained damages and losses because of it. The point is that our society has turned into a ‘material’ and ‘profiteering’ society; a society in which every person is only after his or her own ‘worldly needs’ and on the way to fulfil these needs, he or she has no compunction to trample the ‘spiritual’ and ‘transcendent’ considerations. In fact, the ‘ethical conscience’ or ‘inherent conscience’ has been destroyed in our society. Humans can live on the bases of two rationalities: ‘materialistic rationality’ (or instrumental or partial) and ‘divine rationality’ (or transcendent or sacred). In societies where ‘the material world’ is superior to ‘hereafter’ and humans do not pursue their mental and spiritual completion, the former type of rationality is dominant, and humans decide and choose in its framework. The western society is specifically one of the most prominent modern examples of such a society; a society that is contented with the material world and its material gifts and seeks all its happiness and prosperity in it.

The film A Cradle for Mother is a certain protest to the expansion and dominance of such a situation in today’s society. When the theology student girl chooses the nursing of her mother over studying or teaching religious sciences, it means she waives her personal and material benefits and does not consider her main goal the attainment of social position and status. Although she could take her old mother to a rest home and pursue her personal progress in an unimpeded way by doing so, she chooses to serve and nurse her frail mother without any external force or drive and by relying only on her ethical and religious conscience. Sociologically speaking, it cannot be undoubtedly denied such ‘non-material’ and ‘ethical’ choices have faded to a great extent and ‘profiteering’ and ‘benefit-seeking’ have replaced them. As ‘ethical materialism’ lacks practical association with ‘philosophical materialism’, a religious society can too be afflicted by ethical materialism and at the same time, propagates numerous and strict religious notions. As was said before, such a situation does exist in our today’s society. Our society, on the one hand, is called a religious society that adheres to some superficial traditions and customs of religion such as mourning, pilgrimage…, and on the other hand, the contest of ‘seeking welfare’, ‘aristocracy’, and ‘seeking the material world’ has started among most of the people in the society and ‘despotism of money’ has been dominating social relations

 

Criticising the duality of values in the class of the clergies

The point that the protagonist of the film is a ‘theology student’ and her location is in a theology school bears a specific message. The film A Cradle for Mother shows that some people in the theology schools have not grasped the religious knowledge spiritually and have chosen to be religious dogmatically and ritualistically. Therefore, their choices arise from ‘profiteering rationality’ not their ‘ethical conscience’. In fact, some people in the theology school are not much behaviouristically loyal to the sacred and divine knowledge they are taught and that is why they have a certain type of ‘duality’ and ‘contradiction’ in their character. The writer, however, neither highlights and exaggerates this harm, nor extends it to all people in the theology school. Rather, he includes it in the film’s margin in a soft and faint way to prove that studying religious studies does not necessarily lead to a change in the notion or behaviour. Unfortunately, we can witness it clearly today that some of the clergies who must direct masses of people towards ‘spirituality’ are captivated by ‘materialism’ and are attached to the political posts or economic belongings. Such situation and trend neutralise the ethical teachings of those clergies who believe in the religious teachings profoundly and spiritually and abide by them, and have decreased their social and sacred status severely

 Discovery of the criterion and scale of ‘ethical deed’

Both old and contemporary Islamic thinkers have provided definitions for what the criterion for and description of ‘ethical deed’ is. What is evident, however, is that as the ethical deed originates from ‘ethical conscience’ and not from the humans’ individual profit-making urge, it is not in harmony with ‘profiteering logic’ and cannot be defined and justified in its framework. Based on this contradictory definition, if humans do behaviour that does not answer their ‘individual interests’ or even endangers them, they have done an ethical deed. Therefore, ethical deed is in any form outside the realm of ‘individual interests’ and it is directed at ‘other’ or ‘others’. I remember the late Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Ja’fari (God bless his soul) explained the ethical deed with a simple example in his class of philosophy of ethics: “Suppose someone gives 2 tomans to a cobbler to make 10 stitches on his torn shoe. The cobbler, after sealing the deal and after finishing the 10 stitches in the absence of the man, finds out the shoe needs two more stitches to be firmer. On the other hand, the lack of agreement with the shoe owner in this regard might lead to his not paying for the two extra stitches. Now if the cobbler, regardless of ‘material calculation’ and by relying on his ‘ethical conscience’ does that, he has done an ‘ethical deed’.” In the film A Cradle for Mother, the theology student girl is not forced by law or custom to leave her studying and teaching to look after her old and disabled mother and can take her to a rest home or at least employ someone to work in her mother’s house and answer some of her needs and take care of her. However, she does not resort to any of these alternatives that are approved by the expediency and partial wisdom, and she herself takes up the responsibility to serve her mother. Without a doubt, this act is the absolute example of ‘ethical deed’.

 

Success in the cinematic expression of an ethical principal

The writer believes that the film A Cradle for Mother has been able to convey its ethical content and point to the audience in form of a believable story, and leave a deep impact on the perspective and impression of the audience. The film impresses the audience by the story and makes him ponder, and in this way, acts as an admonition and reminder, and – of course – all of that has been done by a cinematic language and form, in a way that the protagonist does not preach and does not convey the message of the film to the audience in form of words and sentences wholly and directly, and rather, it is the created ‘actions of the theology student girl’ and the ‘outside situation’ that talk of the reality to the audience.

FILM CRITIQUE

By Zeinab Salahi and Nargess Naserizadeh

Analysis of A Cradle for Mother from a lifestyle point of view

The film from the lifestyle point of view

The lifestyle can be studied and criticised in more than 40 subjects, but what comes next is six important issues that have gained a meaning in relation to the film.

Family

In our religious and traditional lifestyle, family is an important issue that guards the denial of individuality and the organisations of social bodies and the interaction between generations and the system of conventions … The modern lifestyle, however, is averse to the family because it is averse to the essence and follows the leadership of devil. That is why most of Hollywood films and westoxificated Iranian films are anti-family and try to challenge all frameworks of a traditional family and change the roles. In the western lifestyle, family is a forced order and the result of life necessities and faithfulness to is among the pains of the humans and it is contradictory to his or her sense of freedom and liberty. By making a change in the family, the western lifestyle tries to promote individualism in the society; the one-faceted human entangled in the world or communications and virtuality. Although the family that had been portrayed in the film lacked the integrity a family must have, and the emotional and close relation between the sister and brother had not been portrayed and each had their own problems the other did not know about and it was caused by the troubles each had, effort had been made to make up for such shortages in the relation between mother and daughter and the responsibilities the brother undertook for his mother like hiring a nurse. Although the family was not an Islamic family due to the different viewpoints of the brother and sister, the important point in the film was the efficiency of religion in the family that convinces Nargess not to go to Moscow and to look after her mother in Iran, but the brother is satisfied with taking the mother to a rest home.

Attitude towards women

In analysing the lifestyle in the cinema, the attitude towards women is an important factor because women are among the most pivotal elements in today’s western culture, to the extent that some people call today’s western culture a feminine one. This issue shows itself more in cinema because the women and feminine attractions guaranty the economy of the cinema and promote the western culture. Many dramas are formed around the women’s character and the unconventionality of the western culture are mainly done by the female characters, and the masculine cinema companies and mostly male directors of the cinema usually exploit this attraction and use women as a tools for their own profit and lust. In this film, the protagonist is a woman but not because of sexual attractions. Regarding the attitude of the film towards women, one can say that the protagonist is a theology student girl who leaves all material and western values and life in Moscow and it seems she has been faced with a reality that she does not want to lose by any means. The truth gives a transcendent perspective to the woman’s character to the extent that it makes her committed to teach it to others. This can been seen even when she is upset with the society and the massacres that happened in Myanmar. There is also clearly noticeable a value-based look at the active and social presence of women especially theology students, and we see that Nargess becomes qualified for propagation abroad, and other female theology students study religious and theological subjects besides other chores like taking care of their husbands and raising their children. Meanwhile, the mother child relation has been valued and Nargess’ commitment towards her mother and fighting individualism and self-centredness manifest themselves. In the sequence where Nargess did not even agree with her friend’s looking after the mother so she could go to Moscow for propagation, she considered staying her duty and said, “Once mother was my cradle and now I must be her cradle.” Leaving mother was basically in contradiction with the subjects she had studied and she saw herself being tested and it was the time she had to act according to what she had learnt. The femininity of this woman is maintained while she has social activities too. Her attachment to the family and her fight against individualism and profiteering are seen clearly. Although this character lacks the aspects of looking after her husband and bringing up her children, she has tried in other aspects of the character to portrait a good example of a woman in the background of a religious lifestyle.

Hijab and clothing

Clothes are important factors in the lifestyle. Contrary to the notion of many thinkers who consider beliefs and values the middle layer of culture and behaviour the external layer and think the values and beliefs must be corrected in order to correct behaviour, it has been proven in today’s world of cultural challenges that many beliefs and values change because of the change in the behavioural layer. Especially in the structure of the western and liberal lifestyle, the west tries to change behaviour and lifestyle more than values and beliefs. That is why the west has invested enormously on the clothing and its change. In a general view, the film is suitable with regard to the clothing and Islamic hijab, because the main theme of the film are women in the theology school and naturally observe the religious code of dressing. Although there are scenes in the film, which showed the difference and contradiction between the religious lifestyle and other lifestyles, like the sequence on the train when Nargess meets a girl who is completely different from her in dressing and behaviour and it shows the difference between their viewpoints and lifestyles without giving value to improper hijab.

Architecture and decoration

We can say that the architecture of the theology school and its shots in the film were a complete symbol of the traditional Islamic architecture. A water pool in the middle of the yard, the domed form architecture of the theology schools, geraniums in flowerpots, the tall trees in the yard of the school, and the engraving inside the chambers with all simplicity inside them, create such joy and excitement in the audience that draws them to the world of theology students and create this feeling in them the wish they could study theology is such a place. In contrast with the pleasant and simple and devoid of elegance architecture of the theology school, we face the apartment and spiritless architecture of Tehran in the house of Nargess’ mother with a modern, chaotic, and condominium form façade, and the architecture has affected the lifestyle of the people living in them, and portrays a kind of western life in the flats. The pale blue and grey colours of the buildings in the condominium convey the feeling of indifference and depression about the modern life to the audience very well. In addition, the sequence of the return of Nargess to Tehran and the exit of the neighbour from the flat with his dog and facing the youths who were doing debauchery and the representative of vandalism class… depicting the contradiction between these two atmospheres and architectures and giving the beautiful aspect to the traditional religious lifestyle and challenging the westoxificated urban lifestyle in the two atmospheres are among the good points of the film.

 

Social relations especially between women and men

We did not have much social relation between women and men in the film, but in a few shots, the relation between the girl and a stranger had been displayed in a very dignified and modest way. For example, in the shot where the girl treated the guard with dignity and modesty and even gave him the souvenir she had brought from Yazd very chastely, and also regarding the boy who insisted on marrying the girl without paying attention to her values, she tried to talk to him in a very logical way. From this point, the film has been unprecedented in the recent years. Unprecedented among the films where chastity and modesty in the relations between girls and boys and women and men are almost indifferent and weak in them and in writing the dialogues and attitudes, there is no difference between the relation between two men and between a man and a woman; unless in the basic limitation of the religious law or the censorship of Ministry of Culture.

Passing free time

The film displays the difference between modern Islamic pastime in this way when Nargess enters their apartment block, she notices the fast beat of music and dancing of some boys from the condominium, which indicates tension in them, but Nargess spends even her free time in a useful way; for example, listening to the Russian translation of the Quran on the train.