T. alt.: Mudbrick and Mirror. Scen.: Ebrahim Golestan. F.: Soleiman Minassian. M.: Ebrahim Golestan. Int.: Zackaria Hashemi (Hashem), Taji Ahmadi (Taji), Jalal Moghadam, Masoud Faghih, Parviz Fannizadeh (uomini nel caffè), Manouchehr Farid (il poliziotto), Mohammad Ali Keshavarz (il dottore rapinato), Jamshid Mashayekhi (il poliziotto con il braccio rotto), Mehri Mehrnia (la donna delle rovine), Forough Farrokhzad (la passeggera del taxi). Prod.: Golestan Film Studio. DCP.
Iranian cinema’s first true modern masterpiece, Brick and Mirror explores fear and responsibility in the aftermath of the Coup.
With its title alluding to a poem by Attar (“What the old can see in a mud-brick/ youth can see in a mirror”), Golestan’s first feature mixes dream and reality, responding to the changing climate of Iranian society, the failure of intellectuals and corruption in all walks of life. It was also the first use of direct-sound in the Iranian cinema, with minute attention given to environmental sound (emphasised by the lack of score) which complements the claustrophobic use of widescreen.
The film’s production began in the spring of 1963 with a small crew of five, and without a finished script. The only written part – the driver and the woman in the ruins – became the basis for the first shoot, followed by improvised scenes in the vegetable market of Tehran. The breakage of the anamorphic lens during the shooting of a scene in the Palace of Justice delayed production. On June 5, 1963, while the crew awaited the shipment of a new lens from France, a protest arose against the arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini. This added to the atmosphere of tension and fear depicted in the film.
With production resumed, the interior shots of Hashem’s room (comprising 40 minutes of the completed film) took five weeks to shoot, followed by a four-week shoot for the precinct and orphanage scenes. The film was premiered on January 12, 1966 at the Radio City cinema in Tehran. It played there for three weeks, but was dismissed by critics as “arty” and “pretentious”. Those who saw Brick and Mirror as a realist film were baffled by the long soliloquies given by characters. Jonathan Rosenbaum has described the spirit of the film as “a mix of Dostoevskij and expressionism”. The soliloquy form reflects both Golestan’s regard for Orson Welles and the oral storytelling and frequent use of metaphor in Persian culture.
Da: University of Chicago Film Studies Center.
Restored in 2015 from the Film Studies Center’s 35mm release print