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BahmanG Written by BahmanG
May. 6, 2012 | 9:49 PM





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A Celebration of Iranian Film: THREE AND A HALF

THREE AND A HALF Review by Behrooz Shahdaftar

One radical consequence of the Iranian Revolution has been the splitting of of individual lives (of Iranian history) into a before and an after. Accordingly, reviewing Iranian cinema demands caution, a vigilance of one’s assumptions. There’s the temptation to approach Iranian films with a political microscope and to search for political nuances that may not be accurate. There is a great difference between political dissent and societal self-reflection. Cinema, by its nature, is embedded in the latter, but not necessarily in the former.

This is one of the concerns with reviewing Naghi Nemati’s lovely film, Three and a Half. The film is presented out of sequence and like many recent Iranian films (in contrast with Iranian mainstream movies) the story-line does not have a clear beginning or end. There is no resolution. And one wonders whether this has become a consistent feature of Iranian cinema precisely because of the long-term consequences of the Revolution: the creation of multiple lives, the before and after lives, with no concrete beginning or history.

In an early scene, a young girl remarks that her younger brother is fortunate to be good in math because no one will be able to rip him off. And her next comment is: Math becomes very handy in Iran. She is one of three women (perhaps teenagers even) who are attempting to cross the Iranian border illegally. The reasons are suggested but not specified.

The women are kind and polite in public, a characteristic of Iranian culture. But their private relations, with family and, as we come to realize, with each other, is disdainful and cruel. And we realize that the women are taking with them the problems they are attempting to escape—perhaps one more reason why the film cannot offer firm resolutions, and why the narrative cannot be segmented into neat categories of beginning, end, and climax.

Three and a Half is beautifully filmed. The persistence of rain, fog, coastal imagery lends the film a dreamy, graceful flow. But the cinematography is also rich in metaphors. The swirling fog represents uncertainty, questioning if departure from Iran is the solution, a way out. Juxtaposed with the fog is the coastal water, a visible boundary, palpable but untraversable. The film gently builds on these symbols and the characters’ impending departure.

Indeed, the film’s depth and richness is another reason why the viewer leaves the film without an easy understanding of its narrative. At times the viewer feels less like a member of the audience and more like an intruder, someone who has barged in the middle of a fight, or another person’s life. Such a film profits with reflection and multiple viewing. One hopes that the film receives the viewing it deserves, over and over again.



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