While a bellicose US president reverses the recent thaw in relations with Iran’s leadership, there are more pressing concerns for the young people of the nation’s capital, Tehran – such as how to navigate the draconian morality laws of its repressive regime. It’s these ordinary Iranians who populate Ali Soozandeh’s eye-opening film, brought to life through the rotoscope technique seen in ‘Waking Life’ and ‘Waltz with Bashir’. And what a revealing portrait of the city’s inner life it is, offering a fascinating insight into its contradictions, bureaucracies and hypocrisies, as well as the everyday struggles of its citizens.
The film focuses on three characters: Pari, a prostitute and single mother (neither a good thing to be in the eyes of the Ayatollah); her pregnant neighbour Sara, who dreams of a career but is not allowed to work without her husband’s permission; and Babak, who has sex with a young woman he meets in an underground rave and must find a way to restore her hymen before her wedding. It’s the kind of film that could only be made by an Iranian, but could never be made in Iran (Soozandeh was born there, but has lived in Germany since 1995).
Beautifully written, acted and imagined, it would work perfectly well as live action, but the rotoscoping has both a distancing effect – which makes some of its more disturbing scenes easier to stomach – and an extra aesthetic dimension: sometimes beguiling, often breathtaking, always compelling.