A famous critic once wrote on Iranian filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi -“His cinema is just like an onion — you peel one layer and there’s another layer fresh ready for you. You think that’s it, and then another layer is opened.” There are people who compare his works with Alfred Hitchcock but whats most interesting of all is that Asghar Farhadi’s movies don’t deal with atypical incidents like murders. Neither are they detective stories.
The source of his stories’s suspense lies in complex human minds – the secrets they keep from others , the mistakes they make and the lies they tell. Asghar’s characters are neither black or white and they all have some mysteries which they carry around with them. He unravels his protagonists’ minds so skillfully on screen that you would be stunned at the end of it all!
Asghar Farhadi , 42-year old Iranian movie filmmaker , has directed 6 movies between 2003 to 2014. Among various international awards for these six movies, his biggest achievement remains being the first Iranian to win the Academy Award in any competitive categories when his 2011 movie Separation won the award for the Best Foreign Movie . Separation also fetched him the Golden Globe award the same year.
Asghar Farhadi was also named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time magazine in 2012. Today his name is synonymous with some of the best Iranian Cinema has ever produced and his role in getting Iranian movies wide attention across the world is paramount. I got a chance to watch Asghar’s last four movies and all four of them impressed me in one way or another. Here is an overview on those movies.
Fireworks Wednesday (2006) -How many times has it happened to you that right when you are about to guess where the movie is heading into , the director throws something at you that makes you think you were wrong. In Fireworks Wednesday ,a young girl joins in a house as a maid and enters the lives of a couple who are going through a big marriage crisis. The husband and wife are in fight from the beginning but Asghar keeps teasing you as just like the young girl, you too find it difficult to guess whose side is right until the end.
The entire movie happens on a single day when the entire neighborhood is celebrating the holiday by firing crackers. Asghar casts fireworks as an important character in his movie as apart from the dialogues of characters, it remains the only other thing you hear in the movie as a background score.
All About Elly (2009)– A group of friends with their children travel to a beach for vacation. One of the ladies bring on her daughter’s teacher,Elly, whom others don’t know about . Her plan is to introduce Elly to their divorced friend but things go haywire as Elly goes missing on the second day .The movie then revolves around the tension and panic of the group as they search for Elly and start blaming each other for her disappearance .
As the movie progresses, Asghar , the master he is in this genre ,reveals more unknown things about Elly and you are in for a gripping and tense ride. Apart from a thrilling story, Asghar also touches upon some socially relevant issues in his community one being how hard it is to come out of a relationship if you are engaged but not happy with it and how big a mistake it is seen in front of others.
Separation (2011) – Asghar Farhadi’s most popular movie. Winner of Academy Award and Golden Globe among several other prestigious awards in 2011. In IMDB, it currently ranks no.100 among the top 250 movies across the world. Now that says it all. Separation is the reason why many including me went into Asghar’s portfolio and made sure they watched his other movies. I still remember when I first watched Separation and how it blew my minds because I haven’t seen a story or treatment like this before.
Separation told the story of a husband and wife who are on the verge of a divorce and how their lives got into more troubles as the husband , from what started as a verbal fight, pushes away their pregnant maid and when she loses her baby. The case goes to court and both sides keep fighting as you slowly learn more about the characters which you did not see before. It looks like a simple story on paper but in the society where he grew up, Asghar’s script has a staggering prominence.
The Past (2013) – This French movie is Asghar’s first attempt outside Iran. The director once again deals with the theme of a divorce. Ahmed, an Iranian man, arrives in France to finalize the divorce procedures with his french wife, Marie. Just as you think this is all about Ahmed’s story ,the focus slowly shifts to Marie’s Arab boyfriend Samir and how an incident from the past of Marie and Samir comes back to haunt them. Asghar once again plays to his strength of how he reveals certain things about the characters along the way which you never saw coming and Past ends up being as good as his previous movies.
‘I try to avoid using music as much as I can and generally only use it for the credits. But I think that the sounds that are present operate like music. Those sounds are both real — so you don’t feel that something has been imposed from outside — and altered, to create an atmosphere’ This is what Asghar replied when asked why he don’t use background music in his movies.
That’s how original Asghar want to keep his movies and that’s yet another fine instance of how close his movies are to real life. Its the same reason Asghar Farhadi is today one of my favorite directors in the world. Do start watching his movies if you haven’t yet. They take you through a very different kind of cinematic experience – one that you haven’t seen from any other director before.