Vivien Kristin Buchhorn (curator of Shahid Saless Archive)
A transitional film linking Sohrab Shahid Saless’s Iranian period with his extended stay in Germany, this was the third film in an unplanned trilogy – which also includes A Simple Event (Yek Etefagh sadeh, 1973) and Still Life (Tabiate bijan, 1974) – focusing on social isolation and stillness. It follows a few days in the life of Husseyin (played by the Iranian Parviz Sayyad), a Turkish ‘guest worker’ who shares a flat in West Berlin with a group of fellow Turks. No other film has depicted the painful repetitiveness of an immigrant’s life in such candid detail. Saless, who had encountered racism while living in Austria, wrote the script in 12 hours and shot the film within 12 days, using a mostly Iranian crew and Turkish non-actors he had found in a local teahouse. The project was partially funded by an Iranian co-op then recently co-founded by the film’s main actor. A vital force in Saless’s career as the producer of Still Life, Parviz Sayyad was an actor/director whose credits include major box office hits, comedy series and arthouse dramas. Here he assumes a dignified walk, complete with the leather briefcase he carries, which is painfully unsuited to his character’s menial job. The film premiered at the Berlinale, where in the previous year Still Life had won the Silver Bear.
Repetition, which had been used in contemporary Iranian films as a poetic device, here emphasises the sense of wastefulness. Saless’s austere style is also manifested in the dialogue: either muttered words or the flat delivery of banal facts. It is as if Husseyin’s entire being is crushed and reshaped under the heavy pressing machine that he operates daily in the hopeless cycle of his life.
There is an abundance of elements from other Saless films: trains, letters written and read, as well as the despairing sight of empty, unmade beds. The vanity of life is captured in dead moments, when even after a character has walked out of the frame the camera lingers, staring into the vacuum and revealing a bleak vision of the world of the exploited and the rootless. As if mirroring the backgammon game played in the film, all of life’s movements are merely small manoeuvres within a narrow square.
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Sohrab Shahid Saless, Helga Houzer. F.: Ramin Reza Molai. M.: Ruhallah Emami. Int.: Parviz Sayyad (Husseyin), Cihan Anasai (studente), Muhammet Temizkan (Kasim), Hüsamettin Kaya (Osman), Imran Kaya (la moglie di Osman), Sakibe Kaya (la figlia di Osman), Wurdu Püsküllü. Prod.: Provobis Film, Kanoon-e Cinemagaran-e Pishro, Telfilm. DCP. Col.
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