Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Asghar Farhadi Files: Dancing In the Dust

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi broke onto the international scene last year with his challenging and complex domestic thriller "A Separation".... a film that would go on to clean up international awards as well as the Oscar for foreign film. Naturally, when a filmmaker emerges so explosively on the scene, my auteur juices are piqued. With five films under his belt, Farhadi represents the new generation of Iranian filmmaking... one that's attuned to the minor details of everyday life explored in the works of pioneers such as Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf while saddling his tales with progressive ideas and advancing Iranian cinema into the 21st century. It was imperative for Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf to introduce us to the Iranian way of life on film and now Farhadi is charged with incorporating the basics and creating a further template (the domestic thriller?) for Iranian cinema to grow.

Having said all that, Farhadi's 2003 debut, "Dancing In the Dust" is a bit simple. Nazar (Yousef Khodaparest) and Rayhaneh (Barab Kosari)  are a young married couple forced to divorce when rumors of her mother being a prostitute surface. Obviously in love, the couple conform to society's unfair regulation, yet Nazar doesn't have the money to pay her marriage stipend. Seeking random jobs, Nazar ends up stowing away in the back of a van, where he ends up in the middle of the desert with stoic, old snake catcher (Faramarz Ghari) and battles not only the elements, but the old man's mysterious past.

While there are thematic connections coursing through the film's veins (namely a courtroom scene that mimics the tense sessions of divorce in "A Separation"), "Dancing In the Dust" is most provocative for its jarring tonal shift. The first 30 minutes, featuring a nifty French New Wave-like jump cut where Nazar and Rayhaneh meet on a bus, he follows her home, and they're later a couple watching a movie, diametrically opposes the second half of the film that plays like a red dirt apocalypse film where the only living things are Nazar, the Old Man and the snakes they're attempting to catch. It's here in the desert where Farhadi fleshes out his themes of mortal regret and isolation. Nazar, a bit of a foolish, impetuous spoiled brat and the only real detriment of the film is his grating performance at times, is eventually helped by the Old Man. The focus of the film shifts from Nazar's petty financial situation to the haunted eyes of the Old Man.... one who keeps the picture of his ex-wife hidden away and only shares stories of his troubled past when he's trying to keep Nazar awake after an accident. Ghari gives a tremendously moving performance and one who wears the scars of a lifetime on his weathered face and deep eyes. It's not hard to imagine these two being the same person and Farhadi visualizing a young man meeting his time travelling self from the future.

While not an explosive debut, "Dancing In the Dust" is an interesting effort, shadowboxing the later themes that will emerge in Farhdai's work. A bit amateurish at times, it is a film that signifies a talent who understands the nuances of life and the complexities of modern relationships.

1 comment:

Christian said...