15 March 2008

IT'S WINTER (Directed by Rafi Pitts, 2006, Iran) - Another Masterpiece from Cinema Iran

Many new waves have emerged from the different corners of the globe over the last 20 years including Latin America, Mexico, Iran, Korea and Romania which is currently leaving a lasting impression on film festivals and art house audiences with a string of post communist social critiques. Of course, all new wave cinema owes a significant debt to the post war Italian neo realists like Rossellini and De Sica who continue to act as revolutionary figures of socialist cinema. Romanian cinema today shares a number of parallels with the work of the Iranian new wave that dominated world cinema for nearly a decade including the adherence to a strict neo realist agenda that covers both stylistic and ideological principles. Though Iranian cinema is not the force it use to be, it is still busy producing it's fair share of neo realist films each year. It's Winter, directed by an emerging talent who trained in London - Rafi Pitts, was released in 2007 and once again reconfirms the potency and understated poetry of Iranian film making. The narrative centers around the the story of a mysterious stranger called Mahrab who appears out of nowhere, much like the Clint Eastwood apparition in High Plains Drifter, only the context is radically different, that of contemporary Tehran where unemployment is causing frustrated workers like Mahrab to make the choice of having to leave to go abroad to find work. Iranian cinema is a pure cinema because everything about it is narrowed down to a simplicity that is strikingly evident in the episodic plots, working class characterisation and unobtrusive mise en scene. It's Winter unfolds as though the events and people occupying the frame are actually real and organic, observing details with a clarity that are representative of a documentary approach. What makes this film so powerful is the ending which is exactly what the narrative builds up to for nearly eighty minutes, culminating in a moment of such beauty and authenticity that it stays with you for a long time. Most of the best examples of world cinema typically employ the technique of non closure or aperture as some narrative theorists like to say, as a way of refusing to offer easy explanations and answers to the desperate situations faced by people. The final imagery of the snow covered railways tracks, the dead body, the wooden crutch and the train pulling away from Mahrab all adds up to become something much more than just film making. Though realisation arrives quite late for Mahrab, it does so with a measure of grace.

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