3 Faces (Se Rokh)
Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces is pared, thoughtful and a little indulgent. We witness how “entertainers” are treated in rural Iran: a mixture of mocking disdain, violent fury and casual neglect, yet always with an undercurrent of obsessive hospitality. So much tea!
The director’s usual restrictions apply, but this is a more expansive film in which a rigid village mentality thwarts and diverts a precocious girl. Leisurely, poignant and a bit dull, this is a tender meditation on prejudice, tradition, censorship and the role of artists in Iranian life.
3 Faces opens with an iPhone clip: an articulate, frenzied girl called Marziyeh (Marziyeh Rezai) berates the actress Behnaz Jafari for failing to invite her to Tehran and advance her career. She wants freedom from her inhibiting climes. Behraz plays a fictionalised version of herself, receiving the traumatic video that eventually depicts Marziyeh’s apparent suicide. We see the noose, the girl, and the phone crash to the ground. Behraz has never been in contact with her.
Jafar Panahi, also playing himself, agrees to drive the mortified actress to the cave, the location of ostensible tragedy. We might expect a thriller, but this begins an oddly wayward, lethargic road trip into the mountains. Locals spill out into the path; livestock block the way; metaphors abound. The camera stays fixed, as characters wander away through exasperation or aloofness. We amble. Crucial conversations take place off screen, those particularly between women, wisely out of male earshot.
A subtle repression floats through the landscape. Marziyeh’s brother rages at her attempts to leave, but her mother sounds weary, her absent father dictating rules from afar. She’s “empty-headed” but clearly intelligent, bound by outdated norms, castigated for her desire to study. With a local old woman, she has a place of artistic sanctuary. In Behraz, she has a model for escape.
Not much happens fast. Panahi gently prods Iranian culture with neither dismissiveness nor celebration. We understand the motives of a young girl seeking emancipation and liberty. We know the director desires something similar. He refers once explicitly to his captivity, but generally employs dry wit and restraint to illuminate injustice, conscious and unconscious.
3 Faces does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
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