could be world cinema’s most iconic scarecrow after The Wizard of Oz, but this severe figure definitely lacks a heart.
Conceived as a protest against the Shah’s rule, it eerily foreshadowed the
tragic disappointments of the Islamic Revolution, thereby earning it the
distinction of being banned by both regimes. Fittingly, Bahman Farmanara’s Tall Shadows of the Wind screens next
week during the Asia Society’s Iranian New Wave 1960s-1970s film retrospective.
in 1979, the timing for Wind was
profoundly unlucky. Right from the opening
sequence, one can see how the new authorities would take issue with Farmanara’s
heavily symbolic adaptation of Houshang Golshiri’s short story. A hardscrabble village has assembled in the
fields to chant their prayers to their long awaited deliverer. It is a primal scene with a vaguely pagan character,
feeling rather out of place in the Abrahamic tradition.
life is desperately hard for the village, due to reasons only vaguely alluded
to. A scarecrow has been erected in the
fields, which should be a positive development.
However, when Abdullah the bus driver draws the rough approximation of
his own features on the straw man, it starts to exert a malevolent influence on
the local populace. Anxiety and general feelings of dread run rampant through
the hamlet, leading to some very real physical repercussions. As the indirect cause of it all, the somewhat
eccentric Abdullah is further marginalized within the community. Yet, he
remains the one member of the tight-knit group inclined to take action.
with Wind’s otherworldly vibe, the
significance of a new progressive guardian bringing even greater misery is
impossible to miss. Likewise, its pointed depiction of the nonconformist’s
troubled place within society did not exactly fit the new government’s playbook
either. Causal relationships can get a little sketchy, but the mysterious uncertainty
is part of what makes it so unsettling.
Farmanara creates an impossibly hard to describe vibe, combining gritty
naturalism and a feverish sense of supernatural oppression. Although Wind
is a decidedly cerebral allegory, it could have easily been converted into
a horror film with a handful of re-shoots and a different score.
Evidently finding a clean print of Wind is a bit of a challenge, but even
in imperfect formats, Farmanara’s visuals are unusually powerful and loaded
with meaning. A compelling fusion of the
unreal and the too real, Tall Shadows of
the Wind defies comparison to other films.
Since it will be projected from DVD, the Asia Society will not charge
admission to Wind this coming Tuesday
(11/12). Highly recommended regardless,
Farmanara’s film has never been as widely screened as it deserves to be
(especially in Iran), so any showing is an event to take advantage of.
Labels: Asia Society, Iranian Cinema, Iranian New Wave