Sunday, April 17, 2011
LIGHT AND QUIET (2008, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Iran, 67 min, A+)
Among the five feature films of Rashidi I've seen, I like this one the least, but I still like it very much. Things I like in this film include:
1. The mysteries. I think what makes this film very different from many Hollywood or American independent films is the mysteries. If this film was made by an American independent director, the film might have told its story straightforwardly. But LIGHT AND QUIET seems to hide a lot of information from the audience. This is a very brave act, because a lot of audience may not like it, but the filmmaker still chooses to do it.
After seeing this film, there are a lot of questions left on my mind: What does the protagonist do for a living? What does he do that makes him get severely criticized? What is the protagonist looking at, or photographing, in minute 38? Why does the guy in minute 43 become upset when the protagonist shows up at his home? Who is the guy in the opening scene? What does the ending scene mean? Does this film say something about the filmmaking or the censorship in Iran?
By not giving the answers to the audience, LIGHT AND QUIET becomes special and very different from both mainstream films and some independent films. The audience has to think for himself and has to pay attention to other things in the film apart from the story, such as the gestures of the characters and the composition of the image.
The mysteries, the withholding of information, or the sense that there are some stories happening "outside" the film is one of Rashidi's "signatures". It reminds me of the old portraits of women in some of Rashidi's short films, such as NIGHTFALL (2008), and DAMP AND MISTY (2008). These old portraits seem to be important and have some special meanings to the protagonists in the films, but the special meanings are never explained. The stories about these portraits are left outside the films.
2.The sound in this film. In LIGHT AND QUIET, we don't hear the characters talking. I think only 30 % of what the characters talk is transcribed into texts. The other 70 % of the talking is lost, and this causes the mysteries in the film.
Instead of the dialogue, what we hear is the sound of car moving, and some sound which feels like it comes from the streets. This characteristic makes LIGHT AND QUIET unique. It is more radical than NEWS FROM HOME (1976, Chantal Akerman), in which the sound of the streets overwhelms the voiceover from time to time.
By using the sound of the streets, LIGHT AND QUIET is also different from silent films. I think LIGHT AND QUIET is special, because it is partly similar to silent films, and partly different from them at the same time. It is partly similar to silent films, because we don't hear the characters talking, and we must try to follow the story by watching the gestures and movements of the characters and reading the texts. It is partly different from silent films, because we hear the ambient soundtrack, and the film looks contemporary. Its style is not like the one employed in old silent films or neo-silent films, such as TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL (1988, Guy Maddin) or JUHA (1999, Aki Kaurismäki).
I think the ambient soundtrack is one of Rashidi's "signatures". In later films of Rashidi, the ambient soundtrack is very important.
3.The strange composition of the image. In an early scene, a guy comes to visit the protagonist to give him a job, but the visiting guy seems to be cut off from the frame. We only see a glimpse of his face for several seconds. In the middle of the film, we see in close up the lower torso of the cigar man, and it looks very strange. There are also a few scenes in which the real action happens in the background, instead of the foreground. These include the scene in which the protagonist and a guy quarrel on a sofa in the background, while we see the chessboard in the foreground, and the scene in which the protagonist quarrels with another man near a gate in the background, while we see a car in the foreground.
This strange composition is employed again in a scene in REMINISCENCES OF YEARNING (2011, Rouzbeh Rashidi), in which we see some family members moving about in the background, while some unidentifiable objects are put in the foreground.
4.The abrupt cut in a few scenes, such as in minute 26 after the cigar man leaves the scene. This abrupt cut is quite startling because it is unexpected.
5.The chain of oppression. The cigar man seems to oppress a guy. That guy oppresses the protagonist. The protagonist oppresses the servant. That makes a scene near the end of the film very touching. It is the scene in which we have the first chance to see the face of the servant clearly. In that scene, I feel as if the protagonist begins to understand the oppressed feeling of the servant, and it is very moving for me.
6.The ending, which is a pure delight. I'm not sure why the ending gives me a very pleasant feeling. Maybe it is because the ending, in which we see blurred lights from moving cars for five minutes, is not as claustrophobic as other scenes.
I think the ending scene of this film is very atmospheric, and the sudden shift to atmospheric scenes reminds me of the ending of THE ECLIPSE (1962, Michelangelo Antonioni). I'm glad that atmospheric scenes are becoming more and more important in later films of Rashidi.
I also think Rashidi use blurred images very interestingly. Apart from the ending of the film, the blurred images also occur at the end of a quarrelling scene in the middle of the film, and occur before a powerful guy talks to the hero near the end of the film. I'm glad that blurred images in various kinds are employed beautifully in later films of Rashidi.
You can watch many short films by Rouzbeh Rashidi in his Vimeo channel: http://vimeo.com/rouzbehrashidi/videos