Poetry in Motion: Atomic Heart
Director Ali Ahmadzadeh’s film revolves around two friends, Arineh (Taraneh Alidoosti) and Nobahar (Pegah Ahangarani), who are on their way home from a party in Tehran. Set during the execution of Iranian prime minister Mohamed Ahmadinejad’s Subsidy Reform Plan – a cash payment for the citizens of his country – Atomic Heart relates the views and opinions of ordinary Iranians.
First, they meet their friend Kami (Mehrdad Sedighiyan) walking alone at night and stop to have a conversation with him. Kami goes on to describe a dream in which he desperately tries to light a cigarette, and upon asking a friend for a lighter, he sees Tehran explode from an atomic bomb. In the dream, he hears Pink Floyd’s 1970 song and album Atom Heart Mother, which the film’s title is taken from. As the friends discuss varying topics of light conversation, they enjoy each other’s company.
After Kami joins the two women on their journey, they soon have a crash with another driver. The sudden and mysterious appearance of Toofan – played by Mohammad Reza Golzar, referred by some as the Iranian George Clooney, a fitting description – incorporating the surrealist element of the film. As the director discussed in one panel interview, he aimed to keep the first part of his work realistic and the second part more dream-like. Toofan pays the driver involved in the crash, and manages to capture Arineh and Nobahar in a bizarre snare, from which they struggle to escape from. What ensues are farther topics of conversation surrounding war and dictatorship; Toofan describes how much he adored listening to Hitler’s voice while growing up, and in a scene that truly makes you blink in disbelief, as another stranger appears, completely resembling Saddam Hussein. As the temperamental and genuinely creepy Toofan lures the women deeper into his strange universe, there exists a dichotomy between this world and the world beyond.
There are a few interesting elements in Atomic Heart, particularly in the latter half of the film, but the lack of enjoyability lies in the plot and how conversations between characters become tedious while the ending feeling rushed. Perhaps the only insightful points that can be construed from Ahmadzadeh’s feature is the way in which Iran’s citizens view their country and its relationship with the rest of the globe.
Atomic Heart is screening as part of Poetry in Motion at the Barbican on 7th April 2019. For further information or to book tickets visit the event’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Atomic Heart here: