The film starkly bares a side of Iranian society; the sometimes gritty reality of male dominance and the rigidity of religion, to the condemnation of mutinous authors and uninhibited females. Women have little influence or autonomy, “sex and the city” is considered pornography and girls with aspirations are deemed garbage. The film displays a country run by a firm government, where family values are sometimes dominated by acquiescence. It shows a world within its countries limitations, where two women inexorably refuse to hold back. Their world of drugs and fluid sexuality runs freely under current, and the consequences of it surfacing are always real.
Atafeh, played by Nikohl Boosheri and Shireen, played by Sarah Kazemy exhibit a chemistry and tension that is both raw and tender. They have grown up with opposite backgrounds, but are both trapped by the same conventions. Atafeh has been surrounded by a stable and lenient family and Shireen has been orphaned, but both find in each other a desire to break free and explore their boundaries growing as young women. Within this desire they unexpectedly find love. Mehran, played by Reza Sixo Safai, is a recovering drug addict and the brother of Atafeh, who replaces substance with stringent religious worship, and has a consuming resolve to marry Shireen. Safai plays the role of a ruthless Iranian reform resiliently and at times vulnerably.
The soundtrack covers traditional a capella Iranian and Persian pop, as the film oscillates flawlessly between what is considered right, and what is considered sinful. Mehran embodies the themes of religion, prevalent male and strict regulation; his scenes are protracted and solemn. Atafeh and Shireen roam in their “underground” Iran, experimenting with drugs and alcohol and each other; dancing and expressing themselves in vibrant, colourful juxtaposition. They forbiddingly run into the sea in their underwear, which strikes in strong comparison to their customary beach hijab, and movingly to Atafeh’s father saying “One day we can all go in (the sea) together.” The film is full of similar contrasts.
Keshavarz, the director, was shocked at the lack of personal freedom when she landed in Tehran, and this film seeks to explore the ideas of freedom in the rawest and most conflicting of ways. The homosexual scenes run directly opposite to the religion that consumes much of Iran, and Keshavarz successfully depicts both Iran at its most free, and its most constrained.
Circumstance is released in selected cinemas on 24th August 2012.
Watch the trailer for Circumstance here: