Political climate in Iran is not for film. Artists and thinkers have been captured and imprisoned to their homes or facilities. As a result, many have left while others have stayed and continued their work in partial secrecy, in a striving underground film culture unlike any other.
Tehran-based director and screenwriter Majid Barzegar is one of them. His second feature Parviz (2012), a bitter, restrained and original tragedy about the loss of compassion in modern Iran, is one of the recent works from Iranian filmmakers living in and outside Iran screened here at IFFR. Signals series labelled “Inside Iran” includes films from directors ranging from Paris-based, Iranian nouvelle vague director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, to young more-or-less established newcomers, among them Alireza Khatami, Mania Akbari, Mani Hanighi and Vahid Vakilifar.
Shot in 20 days, Barzegar’s Parviz – already noted by NETPAC award – unveils striking social criticism in a realistic drama. It will not get distributed in Iran, apart from some independent screenings in local festivals. After the screening on Friday the 25th, Barzegar said that he didn’t get a permission to make the movie at all, but he did it anyway, independently:
“There are people unseen and unheard in society. I wanted to see what they would say and do.”
Like the recent, Oscar-winning Iranian drama Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (2011), Parviz addresses individual’s conflict with morals, society’s secularization and general alienation via a strong dramatic lead.
Portrayed relentlessly by Canadian theatre actor Levon Haftvan, Parviz is a sad figure; a 50-year-old, seriously obese man still living at home with his father, in a working class block building midst suburbian Tehran. He is practically invisible, unless needed for some small maintenance work or tasks like picking kids up from school. Foreman at the dry cleaner’s where he works insults Parviz at a daily basis. His unloving father can only feel frustration and anger towards his ill-equipped offspring.
When father remarries, son is forced to move out. The act sets the narrative in motion. Parviz becomes a pariah who is rejected by the same community that used to treat him as a member, albeit reluctantly. Accompanied by zero coping skills, Parviz starts to fight back. Barzegar’s intuitive film follows his quiet resistance with honesty and empathy producing, in effect, a cumulative narrative. Not laying judgement on the protagonist shows a respect for audience’s intelligence; an attitude recognized in general in the Iranian cinema.
Opening scene of the film catches Parviz alone in his room. Sound world is set: heavy, dragging breathing accompanied by the hopeful hum of the city. Documentary-style camera is usually positioned facing Parviz – always in the same, gray t-shirt – framing the actor in full, at the same time sustaining constant, tiny movement.
As the story unfolds, Parviz shows to be unable to feel compassion, attachment or pity. We can see why: Parviz shows how a lifetime without kindness affects a human being. Father-son relationship is embodied in a short scene where Parviz and his father’s bride sit in the dark of the living room, discussing their mutual appreciation for soft, forgiving natural light, only a moment before the father returns from fixing the electricity and immediately turns on the harsh, articial light. Emotional deadlock is eased in a radical, yet carefully balanced and even comical finale as the tables are turned and the oppressed graduates as the oppressor.
Parviz is a noirish fairytale-take on how power relations work, its occasional surges of horror wrapped in socioeconomical realism. It is easy to see why Iranian authorities have taken it “the wrong way”, as Barzegar stated after the public screening. Devoid of compromising closure, Parviz manages to stay true to itself.