Shirin (PG)

Film

Drama

Shirin_02.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jun 23 2009

Maybe the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami could have called his latest film ‘Fifteen’ instead of ‘Shirin’, as it feels very much like the third part in a trilogy that began with ‘10’ in 2002 and continued with ‘Five’ in 2003. The first offered a series of frank conversations with a middle-class Iranian woman driving a car, all captured from a static camera fixed to her dashboard. The second consisted of five inspiring, ultra-minimalist snapshots of life and nature on a Bosphorus sea front. Both not only asked the viewer to delicately dismantle the miniature realist dramas presented on screen but also to consider the provenance of the images. What choices has the director made? What’s happening outside the frame? Is this ‘real’or an illusion?

And so it is with ‘Shirin’, a dramatic essay on specatorship which draws on the endless expressive potential of the human face. Recalling the aesthetic and emotional candour of Dreyer’s ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’, the film consists entirely of close-up shots of beautiful Farsi actresses as they sit in what looks like a cinema and watch what seems to be a gaudy screen melodrama – a version of the twelfth-century Persian love-triangle poem ‘Shirin’ – which we hear, but don’t see. That Kiarostami has explained how he constructed the film – the sound and the image were produced separately – feels a little like a magician revealing his tricks, as we can make reasonable guesses ourselves by observing the women’s reactions or examining their surroundings.

It must be said that the experience of watching a succession of shots of faces might be taxing for some, but in severely limiting what we are able to see, Kiarostami asks us to appreciate and think about these images. The experience is more rich than appearances suggest. Juliette Binoche crops up briefly as one of the audience members, her baffling presence adding another cryptic dimension to the film. Some have suggested ‘Shirin’ belongs in a gallery, not a cinema, dismissing it as a purely abstract work to be dissected and written about rather than to be engaged with and admired. Actually, it works perfectly well on both levels.
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Release details

Rated:

PG

UK release:

Fri Jun 26, 2009

Duration:

91 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Abbas Kiarostami

Screenwriter:

Abbas Kiarostami

Cast:

Juliette Binoche

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

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pkh

Not mentioned in any of the reviews that I have read is that the off-screen film that is the subject of these women's gaze would never have been granted permission to be shown in the film theatres of Iran due to its emphasis on love and sensual desire, not to mention obvious political undertones. The women's hijab suggests that this is indeed taking place in an Iranian Cinema while the bombastic sound-track evokes a sort of fictional Iranian Hollywood. There is the disparity: why do the audience members constantly tweak their scarfs while watching a film that contains scenes of what I can only imagine to be nude bathing? This adds yet another fascinating layer of mystery to the film.

marie adams

I was searching for a socio-political dimension. Ssurely this film is not just what appears on the surface. Surely it's trying to say more...? I note the preference for Persia/Persian to Iran/Iranian, though the lover dies in Iran, whilst concluding that love is the only and proper way to live... A docu I watched by an Iranian about Iran did this - emphasised the use of Persia/Persian as opposed to Iran/Iranian. Does this in itself shrug off what's happening in Iran now and point to another kind of people with another point of view? I'd like to think that - that this film isn't just about women in Iran - but of the decency of people, these Persian people, at another time and a time to come, free of this political mayhem which is modern Iran? Or do I dig too deep?

Sarah Stalens

To the person criticising the position of line-of-sight of the audience members there are two points over-looked in relation to this. Firstly the cinema screen is larger than a person's field of vision and secondly different details will catch different people's notice, therefor it is infact correct that these people are not all viewing the exact same point. As for the film itself, I found it difficult and at times exasperating, but the cumulative effect was very moving. The collision of the naturalistic and the highly stylised within a single image is fascinating, as is Kiarostami's fracturing of image and sound which become reunited in our minds and imaginations. Beautiful and fascinating.

Karlheger

I found this film to be very disconcerting at first, but once I came to grips with the Shirin and Khosrow story of the film-within-the-film I found Kiarostami's device to be utterly moving and enlightening. A transcendent masterpiece that leads to the viewer considering the very nature of cinema and it lack of value without an audience.

Karlheger

I found this film to be very disconcerting at first, but once I came to grips with the Shirin and Khosrow story of the film-within-the-film I found Kiarostami's device to be utterly moving and enlightening. A transcendent masterpiece that leads to the viewer considering the very nature of cinema and it lack of value without an audience.

heroxmasox

I found this film to be mesmerising and the symmetry between the audio and the images to be as fascinating as the relationship between the experiences of the fictional heroine and the faces of the women featured. The film builds slowly to an emotional climax which, although timed with the emotional climax of the fictional film, is derived entirely from the emotion and emoting of the woman. The casting of Juliette Binoche was, in my opinion, a clever way of showing Western audiences that these women are just the same as western women, jut existing in different circumstances. For me Shirin was an emotional melodrama that was evocative and heartfelt without a scintilla of sentimentality even though it features a sentimental lovestory as the film-within-the-film... In the end the most amusing aspect of this film was wheather this film we hear and never see is meant to be a good film...

heroxmasox

I found this film to be mesmerising and the symmetry between the audio and the images to be as fascinating as the relationship between the experiences of the fictional heroine and the faces of the women featured. The film builds slowly to an emotional climax which, although timed with the emotional climax of the fictional film, is derived entirely from the emotion and emoting of the woman. The casting of Juliette Binoche was, in my opinion, a clever way of showing Western audiences that these women are just the same as western women, jut existing in different circumstances. For me Shirin was an emotional melodrama that was evocative and heartfelt without a scintilla of sentimentality even though it features a sentimental lovestory as the film-within-the-film... In the end the most amusing aspect of this film was wheather this film we hear and never see is meant to be a good film...

MadAboutFilm

Again, I gave Kiarostami the benefit of the doubt, and again, I was disappointed. He has a knack for being suicidally monotonous. He has one idea for a film, and though it may good, that's it; nothing further. The blandness of this film is made worse by the knowledge that those being filmed are professional actors! It wouldn't have taken much imagination to use (or rather exploit, as Kiarostami does very often) the ordinary members of the public as his subjects. I often wished I was watching the film that the filmed audience were just to escape from the boredom. I wasted my time beyond the first ten minutes; I leave you to decide whether you want to waste yours.

Phil Ince

The selfish junkies with their mobile lights glaring in the semi-darkness of the bfi didn't help but overall this film would have been a chore wherever or whenever seen. Every face focussed on is placed centrally on the screen albeit with others visible in the periphery. I could find nothing to meditate or settle on and far from showing diversity, after very few minutes the limitation of the chosen form gave rise to a hopeless monotony. The focal face is often emoting whilst those peripheral ones are blank; additionally, the eye lines of fore- and background artists are often at significant variance. Consequently, I was never convinced that the focal women were actually watching anything. The enduring impression is simply of a group of self-conscious people conveying nothing but their self-consciousness. The momentary presence of Juliet Binoche is only another disturbance. The hysterical tone of the soundtrack is occasionally laughable. Whether this film would be more significant to an Iranian audience - having the opportunity to simply stare at a range of women - I don't know. The only thing I took from it was that Muslim actresses all seem heavily to pluck their eyebrows. It meant nothing to me whatsoever.