From Worst to Best | Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian phenomenon of 9 Films and 2 Oscars
In a context of extreme censorship by the Iranian Islamic government, cinema is maintained thanks to the peculiar critiviade of its filmmakers. pupil of Abbas Kiarostami (Faithful Copy), one of the first directors in the country to achieve success in the West, Asghar Farhadi gave a new dimension to Middle Eastern cinema, currently with impressive names like Jafar Panahi (Tehran taxi) and Mohammad Rasoulof (There Is No Evil). Incidentally, these two award-winning filmmakers were arrested along with Mostafa Aleahmad (poosteh) last July accused of trying to “ignite and disrupt the psychological safety of the Iranian community” by the government.
All this censorship to tell the stories of Iranian society further increases curiosity about them. the plots of Asghar Farhadi they are effective and play with viewers’ imaginations and their own moral quests. It is impossible to passively leave the session of one of your films. His line of work is telling too much, showing too little, or rather, letting the audience fill in the blanks.
Playing in some Brazilian cinemas since July 28, A hero is a the latest example of his feat awarded at Cannes but snubbed at the Oscars in 2022. From his first feature film Dancing in the Dust (2003), without translation into Portuguese, passing through his productions in France and Spain until the most recent, the CinePOP proposes a difficult ranking among the thought-provoking stories of one of today’s most fascinating screenwriters.
If you still don’t know his work, or even Iranian cinema, it’s past time to investigate one of the most effective works of the seventh art. Let’s go to the list with the audience’s notes on IMDB and criticism in Rotten Tomatoes (RT):
Everybody Knows (2018) – IMDb 6.9 / RT 78%
For the first time completely away from their culture, Asghar Farhadi seeks to create family suspense in a small town in Spain. With the Ibero-American dream cast Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darin, the plot builds up its points of friction during a wedding party, in which the daughter of Penélope Cruz’s character disappears and she finds herself around issues of the past trapped in her present and future. As in the director’s previous plots, actions and reactions, right and wrong set the tone for the film, but this time it becomes more of a soap opera than a stupefying denouement. For this reason, the stellar cast opens this list at the last position.
Also read: Review | Everybody Knows – Suspense and Secrets of the Past in Tom Novelesco
Dancing in the Dust (2003) IMDb 6.7 / RT 71%
Untitled in Portuguese and distributed in Brazil, “Dança na Poeira” (in free translation) is the Iranian director’s first film for cinema. Like all first works, it is a sample of what would be the legacy of the renowned filmmaker. Here the moral ties, the difficult choices and the in-between kept secret from the public are already present.
A boy is socially obliged to divorce days after marriage because his wife is the daughter of a prostitute. In the dilemma between his family and his new companion, young Nazar (Yousef Khodaparast) works double to pay the wedding expenses and cannot afford the divorce costs. With a complicated plot and still not as well crafted as the later ones, the character’s long ordeal sometimes escapes our interest.
Beautiful City (2004) – IMDb 7.6 / RT 90%
On his 18th birthday, instead of celebrating, Akbar (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh) cries profusely. That’s because at the age of 16 he killed his girlfriend and now he must go to the adult prison where he will await his execution. The sentence, however, can be changed to life imprisonment if the bereaved father, Rahmati (Faramarz Gharibian), pardon the young man’s crime.
It is a lesson in how the laws in Iran work in a labyrinthine court process, where issues of revenge and “blood money” are brought to the fore. At the same time that a relationship of life and death is born between the friend of the condemned (Babak Ansari) and his sister (Taraneh Alidoosti), who seek to raise the money to win Rahmati’s sympathy and save the young man’s life. As always, nothing is so simple and Asghar Farhadi it makes us enter the dilemmas of the characters.
The Past (2013) – IMDb 7.7 / RT 92%
After the award The break upFarhadi directs this French-Iranian co-production, with an Iranian protagonist, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), coming from his home country to sign a divorce with his French ex-wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo). When he arrives, he realizes that things are derailed in Marie’s life. The eldest daughter lives in conflict with her because of her new boyfriend (Tahar Rahim), whose wife is in a coma and they have a young son.
The problems of the past overcome by Ahmad seem to return and every minute new information makes the story completely change perspective. There are no bad guys and good guys, but people with problems bumping into each other. The past it is an admirably engineered history of collisions. please note that Bérénice Bejo (The artist) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for his performance.
A Hero (2021) – IMDb 7.5 / RT 97%
After the Grand Prix of the Jury in Cannes last year, A hero was left out of the list of the Oscar for Foreign Film to the surprise of the specialists of the seventh art. The story is based on a real event that took place in Tehran, so much so that the adaptation of this fait divers caused the accusation of plagiarism by a former student of the filmmaker in Iran. Farhadi was exonerated and the rocambolian story of Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is a whirlwind of sensations. According to the director/writer himself, this is his first story without “hidden information”, however, there are many doubts in the air.
Rahim is in prison for a debt he was unable to pay. During a two-day leave, he tries to convince his creditor to withdraw his claim against payment of part of the sum. However, he becomes involved in a tangle of interests that involves revenge, media power, justice and fatherhood. Hard to get out of breath.
Wednesday of Fireworks (2006) – IMDb 7.7 / 100% RT
Your third film is really your jumping-off point for overseas. Launched at the Locarno Festival, Wednesday of Fireworks is well-written and gives audiences a safe glimpse of the writer-director’s emerging talent..
Suspicious of her husband’s fidelity, Mozhde (Hedye Tehrani) lives in an existential dilemma, doesn’t pay attention to her young son, wants to cancel the vacation trip, and is unable to clean the house, which is in a shambles. Her husband then hires a maid to help her, the naive Roohi (Taraneh Alidoosti).
During the eve of the Islamic New Year, the characters experience a turmoil of mistrust, secrets and misunderstandings. The script puts us in the spotlight several times and our point of view changes with each new detail. This is Farhadi’s first film to develop a claustrophobic atmosphere of discomfort between the audience and the characters.
The Apartment (2016) – IMDb 7.7 / RT 96%
The first three films in this ranking present the best of the Iranian screenwriter: deceiving the viewer and making him not know where to run. Who’s right in this Oscar-winning story? The apartment puts complex and thought-provoking themes in the spotlight. There, you can think of harassment, trauma, rape, xenophobia, honor, all with the main couple having to take the stage every night to stage a play.
After their apartment is damaged, the young couple Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) must move to another apartment. Once relocated, a sudden eruption of violence linked to the previous tenant of their new home drastically changes their lives, creating latent tension between husband and wife.
Looking for Elly (2009) – IMDb 7.9 / 99% RT
Presented at the Berlin Film Festival, the film won the Silver Bear for Best Director. Already in the mood to bring a great mystery to the center of the action, full of layers to unravel, the Iranian director tells the misadventure of a young kindergarten teacher (Taraneh Alidoosti) who disappears in northern Iran on the beach weekend, in which she would be introduced to a potential suitor.
All the characters deliver veracity and despair in the right measure and urge us not to take our eyes off each event. Why didn’t anyone in Elly’s family know she was there? Dozens of questions accumulate and the unveiling is, in fact, a perpetual doubt. Welcome to the provocative world of Farhadi.
A Separation (2011) – IMDb 8.3 / RT 99%
Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film and nominated for Best Original Screenplay, The break up placed the Iranian director on the level of the world’s great filmmakers. Morally complex, suspenseful and completely immersive, the film captures the mess of a dissolving relationship with a keen insight and a searing ending.
When Nader (Payman Maadi), a bank employee, refuses to leave Tehran, his wife, Simin (Leila Hatami) files for divorce in the hopes that she can give her daughter a better life abroad. Needing someone to look after his senile father while he’s at work, Nader hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a married woman whose chador hides her pregnancy.
One day, after a fit of rage, Nader pushes Razieh and she suffers a miscarriage, prompting her husband to report Nader to justice. How to position yourself in a story like this?
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