Thursday, April 14, 2011

Women in Black

Women Without Men (2009) - Neshat
I've been an admirer of the works of the Iranian born visual artist, Shirin Neshat. Her use of Persian calligraphy and black & white images to convey the disparity and distance between the sexes in the Islamic world is truly beautiful and enigmatic. I've been wanting to see Women Without Men, her first narrative feature, ever since it came out.

Falling somewhere between an allegory and a straight historical narrative account of 1953 Iran, when CIA backed military coup reinstated the Shah, Women Without Men tells the entwined story of 4 women. Fakhri (Arita Shahrzad), a middle aged wife of a verbally abusive military general decides to leave Tehran and buy an orchard in the countryside. This beautiful orchard becomes a haven for Zarin (Orsolya Tóth), a prostitute whose clients become melded into one faceless monster, Munis (Shabnam Toloui), a politically aware unmarried woman, held prisoner in her own house by her strict brother and her friend Faezeh (Pegah Ferydoni), who's hopelessly in love with Munis's brother.

The magic realism of the source material befits well with Neshat's style. Visually, the film has some very powerful moments, especially concerning Munis who throws herself from the rooftop to escape her predicament and being resurrected.

Neshat's unsentimental treatment of these women is a bit too cold and detached to be emotionally resonant, but nevertheless, her powerful images leave indelible mark you can't easily shake off.

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