PARDE/ CLOSED CURTAIN
Iran, 2013, 106 minutes, Colour.
Kamboziya Partovi, Jafar Panahi.
Directed by Jafar Panahi and Kamboziya Partovi.
Jafar Panahi was a celebrity, one of Iran’s leading directors since the 1990s, winner of many festival awards. In recent years, he has become a cause célèbre, forbidden by the Iranian government from making films and restricted to house arrest.
Since then he has made two films which have received overseas distribution. The first was This is not a Film, 2011, and was about Panahi himself and how he managed staying within his apartment. The present film is far more ambitious. It is again about making a film, a much more imaginative project than the first, but still about Panahi himself and his situation. However, he is seen to come and go, visiting his comfortable villa by the Caspian Sea. It makes us unsure of his situation with the government and how strict is the nature of his confinement.
The first part of the film is inventive. A man with a dog, a very cute and alert dog, a arrives at a villa, settles in, closes all the curtains for privacy, plays with the dog and begins to write. Then there are sounds of police and knocking. A mysterious sister and her brother break in. The writer is bewildered. (The house, by the way, has several posters of Panahi these films.)
Later Panahi himself arrives, acting normally, with a visit from his neighbour, his neighbour’s wife bringing a very good meal, labourers in to repair a window.
Then the two aspects mix. Panahi is seen briefly filming the writer. There is a fantasy drowning of the girl. And a fantasy of Panahi walking into the sea and then retreating back. The writer and the director seem to be alter egos. Is the girl a muse, perhaps? or just a feminine side of Panahi?
And so, it is over to us, the magic of film, creativity, possible destruction, a certain playfulness and our contInued interest in Panahi himself and his fate.
1. The impact of the film? A film on film? A film about Jafar Panahi? About Iran and its administration? Censorship and repression?
2. The title, the windows of the villa, open, the bars, smashed, curtains and the blackout? The empty and dark screens?
3. Panahi as director, writer, in the cast? His co director, as a writer, with the dog? The issue of Islam and the dogs as unclean? The contrast with the behaviour of this dog? Attractive, expressive, even watching the television and responding? The bond with the writer?
4. The writer’s arrival, the long single take, the car, the cases, the dog in the bag, immediately drawing the curtains, the blackout, playing with the dog, shaving his hair, his writing?
5. The noise outside the house, the police, the lightning, the man and the woman breaking in, puzzle as to who they were, their explanations that they were followed, the party on the beach, the possibility that they were spies? The story, the brother and going, the sister staying, appearing and disappearing? Throwing the writers pages around? Sitting on the steps? The scene on Panahi’s phone, her going to the sea, drowning? Yet her reappearance? Was she a muse?
6. The writer, his fear, continuing to work? The scene where the audience sees Panahi he filming him?
7. Panahi’s arrival at the villa, the posters for his successful films, his settling in, the visit of the owner, the discussions about his situation, the sympathetic man encouraging him? Panahi’s bringing medicines for his wife? The wife bringing the substantial meal? The labourers coming to fix the windows? One wanting a photo, the other cautious? The break-ing and the stealing? Panahi wandering the house, searching, pondering, looking at his camera, the woman going into the sea, seeing himself going to the sea, the rewind? His packing, leaving?
8. The writer and the dog leaving the house, waiting in the street, Panahi passing them, reversing and picking them up?
9. The film as narrative, the characters and their search, different aspects of the same character, the writer and the director being one?
10. Could the film be seen as an allegory about Iran and repression, especially Panahi’s house arrest?
11. Artists, filmmakers, self-focus? The response to the film in Iran? Throughout the world?