Iranian Cinema

Iranian Cinema, a world cinema that has finally grasped my attention and made me want more. I am very excited to talk and dig deeper into Iranian Cinema. Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation (2011) really captured my attention as a viewer as do I believe it caught everyone else’s around me.

The moment the film started I was hooked, for the first 45 minutes of the film I was glued to the screen. I did not break away from the screen once, then someone left the screening room and it broke my attention, once this happened I checked the time and realized wow I have been really into this film. I still stayed very into the film gathering all of the little details, trying to figure out what this simple plot of a separation between a couple really meant to the overall meaning of the film.

Once the film had finished I was shocked at how the ending played out, it left the viewer to decide how it would end with their own imagination. This was my least favorite part of the film; I am one who likes a resolution in the end. However after completing this film I was able to grasp what I believed was one of the main themes or underlying meanings in this film. I believe the director Farhadi was trying to show the viewers without coming out and saying it that the government in Iran is corrupted. It is very hard for a film to be approved by the government in Iran because it has to fit their rules and regulations. However a good filmmaker can put a good underlying meaning into a film that others can see, I believe that this is that the government in Iran is corrupt and a little into the rights of women. As for the rights of women that is more of a religious thing instead of a governmental thing. Everyone is Muslim and have the rules they must follow that come from the Quran. When it comes to the government’s corruption you see this through the court hearings and the police officials acts of duty. In the court room there is no jury, there are no lawyers and no sense of regulation when it comes to people speaking. The judge allowed Hojjat to speak his mind about an incident he did not witness; he persuaded the judge’s thoughts on what actually happened by listening to his wife’s lies which we see in the end. Along with this there was no sort of expert investigation, only the views of people whom they said could vouch for them (tutors, daughters, and neighbors whom were not present).

This film also allowed the viewers to witness what it is like when a family is separated and the strains it puts on the people who have no control over the situation, in this case their daughter. This could be another underlying meaning the filmmaker is trying to give to the viewers that divorce really causes more damage than good for a family.

I think this film did a good job of portraying the story itself along with what I believe to be a few underlying meanings. I was very impressed with the work of this director, and his technical ways he portrayed this story. It was a beautiful picture that anyone could enjoy. I look forward to seeing more Iranian films in the future after this one.



Academy Award Winner 2012


Russian Cinema

Russian Films, not something you hear of two often or chat about with your friends at the local coffee shop. However bringing them up in class we were able to chat about these films and their directors quite a lot. Gaining a little knowledge on Russia and their film production has opened my eyes up to a new world of film. I won’t go off and say I loved it but it wasn’t absolutely terrible after giving it a little thought. I am more of an action or puzzle film type of person and the two films we watched were among those boundaries in a sort of way.

The first screening was that of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972), after leaving the screening I was very discouraged and nearly drained from the boredom of this movie. I stood up and said, “Wow that was probably the worst movie I have ever watched.” I cannot say that my feelings have completely changed but I understand more of what Tarkovsky was trying to do in this film. I gathered this through reading a few different articles about the film, in Roger Ebert’s review of Solaris he quotes, “It’s often said they’re too long, but that’s the missing point: He uses length and depth to slow us down, to edge us out of the velocity of our lives, to enter a zone of reverie and meditation. When he allows a sequence to continue for what seems like an unreasonable length we have a choice. We can be bored, or we can use the interlude as an opportunity to consolidate what has gone before, and process it in terms with our own reflections.” When I first watched the movie I took Ebert’s first choice of boredom; after reading his review however I understand more of what Tarkovsky was allowing us to do as viewers. I was able to understand this even more so after my experiences at our local film festival. After directing and submitting a short film which had a lot of in-depth meaning to it I see why Tarkovsky unlike me let a scene run on. My short film was, very short; four minutes on the dot. Four minutes was not enough time to allow the viewer to interpret the unidentified meaning of my film which I believe is the reason my film did not place. However Tarkovsky allows his scenes to drag on as one would say so that the viewer can “process” what is happening. I believe this is what makes Tarkovsky’s Solaris such an outstanding film in the industry today. This film was a more modern film that had a sort of puzzle for the viewer to work out in their heads, this “puzzle” genre is one of my favorites along with action movies which is more or less how our second film played out.

Sergei Eisenstein directed Battleship Potemkin (1925) a silent film about the massacre on the Odessa Steps was a pretty good movie. I am usually not a huge fan of silent films but this one brought enough action to the screen that I was able to really sit back and enjoy it. I can definitely see why this film is a “landmark of cinema” according to Roger Ebert. The cinematography and editing really captivate the story and give us a full view of what is happening. The cuts going on soldiers faces in the beginning showing they’re all nervous about being hung. Then cuts showing the man wearing glasses and when it comes back his glasses have been shattered by a bullet. This all really puts us into the setting of the movie and portrays the writer’s story perfectly. I was fan of Eisenstein’s film and would not mind watching it again.

Overall I believe these two films give us different outlooks on Russian Cinema. They’re both completely different from each other and made in two completely different periods of time yet set a great example for modern filmmakers. Maybe now when sitting around talking about movies with friends I will be able to bring up an example of how Russian Cinema has helped influence my knowledge of filmmaking today.

The Music Room

Taking a trip to India has brought a great deal of new music my way. A style not resembled in any other culture. This style of music plays a large role in the countries cinema. Hindi films have a lot of unnecessary musical numbers in them that seem to stray away from the film itself but play a large role in the genre itself.

The Music Room (1958) a film directed by the Indian Filmmaker Satyajit Ray, kicks off with a “line number” which is a random musical number during the film. I think this is a good way to really introduce this film as a Hindi film. I was not a big fan of this film however it is a good example of the style of cinema that is produced by India. My main reason for not enjoying the film was its pace; the film was very slow and hard to get into. Besides this I really thought the line numbers as random as they may be are very cool. Incorporating the music in a diegetic way rather than a non-diegetic way really brings you closer to the Indian culture.

Overall I think the film really portrays what I have learned about Indian cinema in a very good way. Random musical numbers and lots of dancing adding to the length of the film; Hindi cinema may not be my choice of cinema but it does set a cultural distinctness to its genre that stands out worldwide making it one of the world’s biggest film industries.  

Volver: Human, Ghost, or Fairy

Is she a ghost, is she alive, what exactly is she? A weird, plot twisting, yet great fairy tale like picture is seen in Pedro Almodovar’s film Volver (2006).

Foreign films with subtitles have grown on me but yet I have not had many that I could look at and say wow that was a very good film. However this past week we stepped into the Spanish film genre; starting off the subject we watched Volver and I must say it is a very great picture.

This film is about a woman Raimunda whom is having family issues. Her mother died several years ago along with her father in a tragic fire in Spain. Raimunda is dealing with not having a job, her husband rapes her daughter who in turn kills him for Raimunda to find when she gets home. After the issue is explained Raimunda disperses of the body and begins taking over a local restaurant she was supposed to be selling for a friend. In the middle of all of these issues her aunt dies and mysteriously someone warns her neighbor she has died and leaves money for the burial services. The neighbor, Agustina, believes it was Raimunda’s mother in spiritual form, and she had come back from the dead to take care of her sister (Raimunda’s aunt). We eventually see Raimunda’s mother, Regina, in person and assume this is her ghost just hanging around her sister, Irene. Until a scene where Raimunda and Irene are sitting on a street bench you believe that she is a ghost but this is when the plot twists and we find out she never died. In fact she set fire to the house killing her husband, Raimunda’s father, for sleeping with Agustina’s mother whom died as well.

After watching this film and understanding it through and through you have several different ideas of what you thought the director was trying to do. One main thing I really considered was, was this film some sort of Spanish “Fairy Tale.” When you consider it, it seems to make sense. The mother or “Fairy Godmother” whom everyone believes is dead goes around helping people who are dying to better their last days. She also plus this big magic trick by making people believe she is dead when really she is alive and well. She comes back to her family, makes all their issues go away and helps them get back on a happy little lifestyle in the end of the movie. When looking at it she makes everything better, brings happiness, so why can she not be a sort of “Fairy” character? I believe the director all along viewed Regina as the “fairy” of the story all along as he sent her to help each of the characters throughout the film. Along with these ideas we gather we see many different elements of the film that really inspire us and bring us as viewers in. One thing that gets viewers is the most powerful scene or climatic moment of the film.

The scene on the park bench really wraps up the story; this scene which I believe to be the most powerful scene in the entire movie reveals the entire story of this film to us in a few lines of dialogue. The cinematography, lighting, and acting all play a major role in making this scene what it is. The cinematography was simple a few middle shots, with mostly close ups but the lighting correlating with these shots gave us a feeling that this was a breaking moment for both actors. The feeling the actors give you as they make up and finally understand what’s going on really brings the viewer in and if their attention hasn’t been taken yet it this shot surly does the job.

One major characteristic of lighting we notice is the lights and darks. Not relating this to day and night but to this reoccurring aspect of feelings we have. When the actors seemed to be upset, the lighting was dim. There were more shadows in the scene portraying this sad and scary feeling onto the film and giving it the weird and twisted theme that it seems to have. Opposing this was when the actors were in better moods and making something of their days (ex. Cooking for film crew) the lighting was brighter and gave a happier feeling to the film giving us the feeling that the characters were doing better in their lives. The more lit scenes come in later in the film while the beginning is darker and less appealing to the eye. I believe this again relates to the feelings of the characters and as the film progresses the characters become happier therefore the scenes become brighter.

Throughout the entire movie you notice very good cinematography and lighting elements but other noticeable aspect of this film is the use of the color red. You see red in a lot of outfits, foods, and decoration. I believe the use of red in this film was to bring a strong intense feeling to the movie. There is a lot of death and sadness in the film as well and when a person thinks death they usually think of blood which as we all know is red.  This element of color I believe makes the viewer feel for the family and their troubles they are going through.

Overall this film was very well made. I believe it is one of the best movies I have seen in the World Cinema genre. A weird and twisted story that turns out more like a fairy tale in the end as the family, regardless of their losses, lives happily ever after.


A Boring Film, Yet A Great Film

One of the most boring films I have ever seen but yet one amazing film. Besides being a dramatically long film that moves slow throughout, it was one of the best narratives I have seen. The story had a good flow to it, following a strict narrative that was quite disturbing.

Lars von Trier’s, Breaking the Waves (1996) was not a film that I would ever want to sit through again. I found this film to be one of the weirdest most boring films I have ever watched. However what struck me and will stick is the way the narrative was laid out. The first thing I noticed was the chapters to the film like you were reading a book secondly was how different the narrative was. It was unlike any film I have ever seen before, the story itself was disturbing following the story of this mentally ill woman who worshiped God but was very unholy in her actions. When talking to God she spoke what she believed he was saying to her as if she was possessed then she would have a very innocent reply back to him.

A second thing that really stood out to me was the cinematography; the different shots and camera movements throughout really helped tell the story. When she would pray the camera was close up on her face to see her expressions very clearly. This also put a lot of emphasis on how messed up she was in the head when she spoke for God himself. This being less cinematography and more editing they both correlate with each other, when she would start to go crazy there would be a lot of quick cuts to different angles and shots of her outrage.

I found these few elements to be very good at portraying this story. I was not much into the movie but did notice this and it stood out a lot. These elements and uses of them really show a good style of filmmaking. The narrative as well stood out a lot because of how different it was compared to other films you see. A film with a normal plot was in a sense very disturbing and somewhat scary and it gives a different outlook to what the films genre could be labeled as.

Two German Films Impacting German History

Two of Germany’s best films in one day; one of the most influential films during the German Expressionist movement, a silent horror film, is considered to be one of the best horror movies of the silent film period. Following this was a film which won two awards at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival and considered to be one of its director’s best films to date.

The first film a silent film made in 1920, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, directed by Robert Wiene, and adapted from a screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. This silent film did not strike me as very interesting, I found it hard to stay focused throughout but I can understand why it got so much credit. One aspect of the film that I really noticed was the lighting. It gave the film a much better horror film look thanks to the contrast of the film. Most of the color was either really white or really black not leaving room for a gray area. I thought this just really stood out compared to other films I have seen during this period. As for the rest of the film I was not into it much. The story of three people whom are in an insane asylum and the story is told through the main character Francis’s fantasy which you realize in the end of the film. His fantasy is about him and another man fighting for Jane’s hand in marriage, and then the other man is killed mysteriously after talking to Dr. Caligari whom turns out to be his Dr. in the asylum. The idea of the story is clever and I can see where the making of it may have really scared people in its day. The set plays a big role as well; it is very in depth and has a sick haunted look to it. Overall I can see why this film did so well during its time; it is still noticed today as a great horror film.

The second film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, was a very interesting film and one of my favorites that I have seen this semester. A love story about a younger foreign man and an older German woman; which takes place in Germany and follows the struggle of love at such an age difference. The young man Ali is taunted to ask the older woman Emmi to dance at the bar and this leads to a romance between the two. They move into Emmi’s apartment and soon get married. This does not go over well with Emmi’s family and friends due to the stereotypes and racism against foreigners, but they soon learn to deal with it. Later in the film Ali cheats on his new wife with the bartender of the bar in which they met at. A few scenes later when you do not think they will be getting back together Emmi goes back to the bar in which they met and plays the same song they first danced to. Ali asks her to dance for a second time and after Emmi tries to tell him it’s okay because of their age difference but Ali confesses his love for her and they decide to fix things. Right after this Ali collapses and this is due to a stomach ulcer. The film ends with Emmi sitting by Ali in the hospital saying she will do whatever she has to to make sure Ali stays healthy.

After seeing both of these films I cannot find much to relate the two however I can see how these are both historically recognized for the impact on German filmmaking. Each of which have placed a different example on German film.

Wild Strawberries Turns Out To Be Great

A Swedish film that I never felt the need to watch nor did I even want to. Wild Strawberries (1957) has been on my list of movies not to watch for a while. I had heard this movie was one of director Ingmar Bergman’s best films but it never struck me as something I would like, especially after seeing clips from the film. After sitting through this film for the first time I actually really enjoyed it. The film had it slow parts where I wanted to stop watching but overall the film was very good and had an interesting narrative.

Bergman really did a good job with his narrative in this film; he told us all about the main character Isak’s life from past to future time. He did this through a few different ways, he told us Isak’s past through the hitchhikers he picked up. The first group of three kids related to his past because it was two boys fighting over one girl whom they both really liked. This scenario was just like Isak and his brother when they were younger fighting over Sara, Isak’s childhood sweetheart. This group through their travels sent Isak into many flash backs that told us all about his teenage years of life.

The second group that was picked up was a couple whom could not seem to get a long for anything. This couple always fighting reminded Isak of his bad relationship with his now passed away life. While all this was telling us about his past his present time story was brought out through his daughter-in-law Marianne whom was riding with him on his way to accept his award for being a doctor for 50 years. She was able to really talk to him and it showed us that Isak was a very tired, upset old man, whom was about ready to call it quits on life.

When he finally reached his sons house the group of teenagers left and told him they would always remember him and that he was a great man. His talk with his son about Marianne and how he needs to fight for her because she is a great girl and when Marianne tells him that she really likes him brings a smile to Isak’s face. This scene foreshadows Isak’s future and shows that he is now going to live a happier life because he does have people who really care about him.

I thought this film was a great film and despite going into it with a negative attitude I came out very impressed and I happened to like it a lot. This film I must say is one of my favorite films I have watched this semester and I would recommend it to just about anyone who really has a love for film.