Co-written and directed by Ali Soozandeh, Tehran Taboo follows the lives of four young people living in Tehran, Iran, whose lives intermingle as they each find themselves in difficult situations at odds with their country’s strict religious-based laws. Presented using rotoscoping, this is a visually stunning animation bursting with colour and style that tells a bleak tale of people living in a corrupt system that works against them.
From the opening shot alone, it’s made clear just how much detail and effort was poured in to create this film. Drenched with dazzling colours and dripping with style, every frame serves a distinct purpose by embodying the ambience of each sequence to not only tell a visually striking story, but to give the city of Tehran a life and personality of its own. Lighting in particular is handled masterfully here; sunlight casting through windows, city lights twinkling at night, or strobe lighting in a nightclub, lighting is an integral part of the visual style that gives the vibrant world a sense of photorealism.
Even more impressive than the backgrounds is the rotoscoping of the characters themselves. The expressiveness of their faces alone is simply staggering, with the subtlest of movements being rendered, which only serves to humanise their plights further. Despite their photorealism, the characters never appear uncanny thanks to the stylised world they inhabit as well as some equally flavourful cinematography that provides some extra flair. The level of detail that the animators have put on screen cannot be praised enough – they even went as far as to render reflections on windows and monitors.
As outstanding as the rotoscoping is, it wouldn’t be nearly as impactful without the strength of the narrative. As we move to each of the film’s separate, but fully interwoven, subplots, the progression is as natural as turning a page. Everything elegantly flows together in a way that builds upon what came before and ties each of the different threads together in a way that feels meaningful and earned. Although the finale doesn’t flow quite as well as the rest of the movie, as it cuts to the different conclusions, each ending still carries the emotional payoff we would expect.
Beautifully stunning and elegantly told, Tehran Taboo is a glorious animation that explores sensitive issues in a poignant manner that highlights a tragic reality at odds with itself.
Tehran Taboo is released in select cinemas on 5th October 2018.
Watch the trailer for Tehran Taboo here: