Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Mirror - Irani movie

Watched a delightful Iranian movie 'The Mirror' yesterday afternoon. Despite the white summer heat of May and the tiredness of an early day creeping up, the movie managed to hold its own which is fantastic. Its a good way to gauge movies these days or even books - I let them go on as long as they don't bore me at which point I switch them off and move on. Even with people this seems like a good idea.

'The Mirror' is the story of a little school girl, maybe seven or eight years old, who comes out of school and  waits for her mother to come and pick her up. The mother does not arrive and the child, who has one hand in plaster as well, starts getting impatient. The school teacher sends her homeward with a relative of hers who drops her off at a bus stop. She takes the bus and tries to find her stop, a square with a fountain is all she remembers. The bus goes to the bus depot where she is discovered by the bus driver who offers her a ride back to the square in another bus. And so she goes around Teheran with all the people who thong the buses, the old, the young the mothers and the children, trying to find familiar landmarks. Then there is a twist that knocks you off your feet - she takes off the scarf, the cast on her hand and refuses to act anymore. That is when we discover that for more than half an hour we have been following the child through a movie crew's camera for which she was acting and there is an instant sense of relief. Despite the crew trying to coax her to do one final shot and then retire, the young girl refuses and decides to go home by herself, just as
the character she was playing did.  The movie crew realises that she still has the mike on her and all they need is to follow her as she tries to go home and get some shots amidst the bustling Irani traffic.

And once again we see almost the same scenes replayed in real life, only this time a lot more authentic, as she seeks her way home from passerby, taxi drivers, policemen and so on and gets help from unexpected quarters. It almost appears that the young girl is testing the rest of humanity to disappoint her and finally when she convinces herself that maybe all is well she returns home assuredly, disposing of the mike that the crew had left on her in their bid to follow her with her agent. No one knows why the child stops acting suddenly despite the efforts of the crew to find out.

'The Mirror' is delightful in the way it engages you with just the little girl and the city. The traffic and the bustling roads are live characters just as all the real people we see trying to help the young girl out. I have never seen a film like this and doubt if I ever will. I have also learnt so much more about Iran in this movie than I ever will by reading books, seeing pictures or meeting people. Thanks to the director Jafar Panahi, I got a ringside view of what happens in Iran on a daily basis, the people and their hopes and aspirations, their troubles and tribulations. The story is told over a period of 90 minutes real time, the length of a football game between Iran and South Korea which Iran finally wins by a margin of 6-2, the commentary of which is heard as the girl weaves her way through the city. Great stuff!

But no one can feel the sense of isolation of children as much as children themselves. Anjali, all of three and a half, was visibly worried about Mina (the girl in the movie) in her short five minute viewing of the film along with me. Only after I convinced her that Mina was fine and there are many good people who will help her get home, was Anjali assured and traded her frown for a smile.

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