The fates of a madman, a homeless woman, a print shop worker and a playboy are intertwined in the days leading up to Persian New Year. Toofan, an uncategorisable film which moves freely between horror and comedy; documentary, musical and sci-fi, was the first production of Khachikian’s own studio, Azhir Film.
After the censor banned Khachikian from making a film about the first serial killer of the modern era in Iran, he turned to one of his own stories, exploring his preferred themes of compassion and evil. Shot both in the studio and on location, it features a memorable sequence of Bonfire Wednesday and a ruin which was rumoured to be a former Qajar era torture dungeon.
A fast-moving low-budget film, its frenetic pace owes much to the fact that the only camera available was worn out and couldn’t shoot for more than twenty-five seconds without catching fire. But this wild, often incomprehensible hybrid of genres is a testimony to the flexibility of cinematic conventions and the line between reality and fantasy in non-western national cinemas of the 1950s. In its stylistic variety, one can see Khachikian’s commentary on the modernisation of Iran, which he portrays as both promising and disturbing. If the film’s expressionist vision is akin to a Universal studios horror film, the social critique makes it clear that the ‘monster’ is the creation of an unjust society rather than a mad scientist. Khachikian admits: “What I wanted to say in Toofan was that in our society, we want people with mental issues to be chained and sent off to insane asylums, whereas we have many crazy people around dressed as sane people. They are free. Some of them are respected and get encouraged for what they do. But if someone who has been labelled ‘mad’ makes the slightest move, we immediately want to punish him. Some, in our society, are crazier than the so-called crazy people who are kept in bedlams”.
Cast and Credits
Scen., M.: Samuel Khachikian. F.: Vahak Vartanian. Scgf.: Ali Delpazir. Int.: Arman (‘il matto’), Roufia (Simin), Hossein Daneshvar (Saeed), Mansour Sepehrnia (Soosool), Garshasb Raoufi (Houshang), Vida Ghahremani (Pari), Sousan (Gigi), Mohammad Motavasselani (Farhang). Prod.: Azhir Film Studio. DCP. D.: 102’.
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