The bigger picture

Both Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and actor/director Sean Penn focus on the lives of their protagnists to unveil underlying social evils

The bigger picture
Academy Award winning Iranian director AsgharFarhadi in his The Salesman weaves yet another story of an Iranian middleclass couple who have to evacuate their apartment as it is developing cracks and may crumble at any point of time.

Emad is a teacher as well as playwright, actor and theatre director. His wife Rana acts in his plays. They had to suddenly vacate their apartment and move to another apartment owned by their friend and fellow actor. The old tenant of this apartment who has not completely vacated the flat and keeps her things in one room was promiscuous. One day, an old friend of her enters the house and forces himself on Rana. She is injured, traumatised and is depressed over the incident, which haunts the couple for the rest of the film. They would not like to register a complaint with the police as it may lead to unwanted questions. But the culprit has left his pickup van in front of the building and Emad decides to trace him, which he does.

Asghar is well known for his scripts with straight-line narratives that eschew any unwanted interpolations. “The film concerns the family of the couple in the film, it is their private life,” said the director. The film moves at three levels like the falling apartment, the new one where they have shifted and the stage. These three spaces are a “reflection of the jeopardy in which they find themselves. The space becomes a character in the film,” he added. “The most widespread class in Iran is middleclass to which I belong, which I know well and hence I prefer to speak about that.” This film, like his Separation also portrays the relationship between the urban middleclass and the less fortunate people living around them.

While the narration unfolds, in the fictitious theatre of the couple The Death of the The Traveling Salesman by Arthur Miller in progress. The filmmaker said, “I studied theatre. I love working with spectators. And I pay a lot of homages and tributes to leading authors.” Two parallel tales unwind, the tale of Willy on stage and the life of the actors Emad and Rana in real life. While Willy is a man who has failed, Emad and Rana have to make peace with the incident and build their lives again.

The film is a tale of love, revenge, pardon and theatre. The crumbling apartment creates a sense of emergency, a distressing situation. “The obstacles become a source of energy” commented Asghar.

Sean Penn, who has won two Academy Awards as an actor, was always known for his political and social activism. His star-studded film, The Last Face, is a love story between two doctors who meet in a refugee camp in Liberia. The film vividly portrays the struggle, violence and mayhem between the ordinary people who just want to survive and the armed militias. The portrayal is graphic. The refugees keep moving from one camp to the other, only to be killed either on the way or to be bombed or shot in their camps.

While Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron light up the screen, there can be questions whether they come out successfully as serious rescue medical volunteers in testing conditions.

“It is a story that touched me. Every film finds its own complexities; we are all affected by issues around the world. We are all affected by refugee issues and the governments’ support to the suffering people.

“Real issues and real things are happening. But this film is also about two people meeting and falling in love with each other. It is a romantic love story situated under difficult and challenging circumstances,” said Sean Penn.

Time for accolades

JuhoKuosmanen’s debut feature, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, a simple yet well-layered Finnish love story of a featherweight boxer competing for the world title in 1962, shot in black and white, was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize by the Jury headed by the Swiss actress Marthe Keller. The Jury Prize went to Koji Fukada’s Japanese film Harmonium. American filmmaker Matt Ross won the Best Director award for his family adventure Captain Fantastic. Best Screenplay award was claimed by sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin for their The Stopover, a film on rest and recuperation of French contingent that served in Afghanistan. Un Certain Regard Special Prize went to the French animation film The Red Turtle by Michael Dudok De Wit.

Of the films screened under The Directors’ Fortnight, Afghan rural fantasy Wolf and Sheep, the debut film by Shahrbanoo Sadat won the Art Cinema Award. The SACD award went to the French film The Together Project by Solveig Anspach.The Europa Cinemas Label to a European Feature Film went to Mercenary by Sacha Wolff. The Cannes Critics’ Week Jury headed by the French Actress Filmmaker Valerie Donzelli awarded the Nespresso Grand Prize consisting of a 15,000 euro cash prize to Mimosas, Oliver Laxe’s Arabic film set in the Moroccan Atlas mountains. France 4 Visionary Award supported by France 4 with a grant of 4000 euro went to Mehmet Can Mertogiu’s Turkish debut film Album. Gan Foundation Award was given to the Israeli debut film One Week And A Day by AsaphPolonsky. The award aims to support original, innovative and daring work and consists of 20,000 euro to the French Distributor of the film for releasing the film within two years following the award. The SACD award given by the Authors’ Society consisting of 4000 euro went to Davy Chou’s Cambodian film Diamond Island that projects a dreamy illusory world to a young worker. The Canal + Award for Short film was given to the French film Birth of a Leader by Antoine de Bary. Leica Discovery Prize for short film went to the Indonesian short film In the Year of Monkey by WregasBhanuteja. FIPRESCI awarded the International Critics’ Prize to the German Father-daughter drama Toni Erdmann by Maren Ade. The Romanian drama Dogs by Bogdan Mirica was awarded by FIPRESCI in the Un Certain Regard Section and Raw by Julia Ducournau from the Critics’ Week section. The Ecumenical Jury awarded Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only The End Of The World.

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