Thanks to Mr Gohari for sending this article
A film review by Dr Gohari
Gilane codirected by Rakhshan Bani Etemad and Muhsin AbdulWahhab, 2005 is a motion picture made in Iran. It revolves around the character of a woman named Gilane who is from Gilan Province in North Iran. Thus what strikes the viewer at some stage is the resemblance between the name of the woman and that of the province where she resides and thus it has been said that the woman might be conceived as representing the province in its human incarnation. The movie comes into two distinctive segments of which the first portrays the woman and her daughter as well as other relatives and friends at a late stage of Iran-Iraq war. This segment offers a picture of apprehension, insecurities, fears, miseries and ultimately actual risks and threats posed by a full-blown, on-going, all-inclusive war. In this segment, one notices the aspirations and hopes of a middle aged woman who lives in a remote rural area being in real terms exposed to threats emanating not from normal hazards of an ordinary life but rather from an environment which is gravely impacted by a ferocious war that has now come to cast its menacing shadow more than before on civilians living in cities, towns and villages. Gilane’s only son and her breadwinner and the one she loves and lives for is despatched to warfronts and she needs to accompany her daughter to check upon her husband who was left to engage in making a living on his own for the family in Tehran; the capital city. The journey to Tehran takes place chiefly aboard a rickety bus with passengers ranging from a shell-shocked solider to an elderly man who accompanies his critically ill and bedbound elderly wife at the back of the bus. The scenes and conversations on route to Tehran that is happening at night offers the highlights of the messages that are intended to be conveyed by the directors and produces. The second segment kicks off by a note on the screen that heralds a leap of fifteen years between the last segment and the one that is yet to unravel. This part is a presentation of the aftermath of the events of the first segment in the fifteen years that have now ensued. Gilane is now an elderly woman with a frail and conspicuously worn-out body that arises a sense of pity in the viewers. She has now to suffer from afflictions such as the drastic ill health of her paralysed son as well as a long separation from her daughter who cannot come to visit due to all manners of problems of which one is the loss of a husband she had not heard from for ten years in war. The details of Gilane’s life as a life shaped by the lack of modern means of comfort are represented in a daily routine filled with anguish and agony. A young good- looking burgeoning son turning into a shadow of a person lacerated by physical wounds and striking mental traumas and in need of incessant attention dose not but stimulate a sense of distress and remorse for what there was once.
One can distinguishably notice a stunningly brilliant performance by Fatima Mutamid Arya in the Gilane’s part. She has – quite capably – been able to bring out the character of a self-sacrificing, ego-denying mother who is wholesomely dedicated to her family under exceedingly coarse circumstances. Her acting is such that the viewer cannot help feel as if he/she is actually watching a documentary made out of sporadic shots from a real mother throughout various stages of her life. As a middle aged woman tending to have kept a high degree of her vigour she indicates a faithful portrayal of tenderness and compassion which can be demonstrably felt in her body language and facial expressions. As an old woman she has offered a precise depiction of a typical rural female person both emotionally and physically. The fashion in which she achieves old-age contortions in body and face cannot possibly elude the viewers’ attention and admiration.
In total, it is hard not to come to the opinion that the film is an attempt to illustrate in acute details the catastrophic consequences of war and its apocalyptic impact upon the countless number of individuals as themselves and as members of families, societies and nations. Technically it will be only fair to remark that the directors have succeeded to a large extent in reconstructing the features and characteristics of a bygone era i.e. the late wartime Iran. The clothing, cars, TV sets and the like are subject to carful attention and observation of the directors so that they could accomplish a “re-live” experience of the time. The level of their success can aptly be measured by scale of the sense of going back in time felt by the viewers. The story is interesting in the sense that it keeps the viewer in a state of expectation and curiosity about what is yet to be unraveled. Nevertheless it is also noteworthy that the atmosphere that is surrounding the events and also the awe of cataclysmic happenings create a fatalistic sensation that one cannot help but to believe that things are moving for worse. This may have been premeditatedly planned in order to accentuate the striking desperation of wartime situations. The movie is also a portrayal of resilience and “not giving up” attitude on part of Gilane who is seen in a perpetual state of looking ahead and forward to the future with a sense of hope and optimism. Utilization of techniques seen by some as creating apprehension and suspense next to references mostly verbally made to the inevitability of joining war efforts under aggression and duress have contributed to the emergence of conflicting views over the directions and also nature of the movie.
All in all there are three areas of distinction that can be prominently identified: Gilane as a person, war stricken people, and war itself. Gilane may well be seen as representing the women as mothers, wives, sisters, neighbors and so forth under unmitigated social and economic harshness. However this may remain a conclusion left for the viewers to draw. As a person, Gilane is unquestionably an embodiment of forbearance and patience. Therefore the question may arise to the effect that although the film succeeds in presenting a feminine perspective as exemplified by an individual whether it has been successful to the same extent to shed light first on the female leading character as a personification of her gender and second whether it has also been able to grant the social environment the eminence it requires in shaping the personality of Gilane. Irrespective of the ambivalence regarding the ultimate messages of the film it still will remain a fact that within a purely technical context the film meets high benchmarks of brilliance in the action of Fatima Mutamid Araia as well as a good scale of commitment to quality film making by Bani Etemad and Muhsin AbdulWahhab.