Pardé – Closed Curtain

Jafar Panahi, Parde film still

The house is a cage

Even the title is symbolic. “Closed Curtain,” the curtain that shuts off the seaside villa from the outside world, representing the curtain closed upon the artist’s life. It begins like it ends, with a view upon the beach shuttered by a gate, with the house symbolized as cage. From the basis of these two symbols a web of significances is established, (the shutting off of the lights, the presence of the girl in the house, the covered cinema posters). Yet, lacking the ambivalence required to empower them, the transparency of their significance empties these symbols of their potential force.

Through symbolism of enclosure, the film confines the filmmaker, the writer, and a girl (the elephant in the room) in a huis clos to represent filmmaker’s legal state (his prohibition to make film in Iran). But the flat, transparent symbology does not allow these images to be cinematically communicated – neither the ambience, the sound, or the images confer entrapment.

When the film uses the dog’s presence as a justification of the writer’s enclosure (due its unclean status in Islam), a realist approach is proposed, only to be clumsily abandoned at arbitrary moments. So, when the writer turns off the lights so the girl’s presence will not be discovered by outsiders, we are asked to believe that the house is pitch-black although the screen displays a room lit for the camera. Again, after her arrival the girl asks where the bathroom is to change her clothes (she had jumped in the sea to escape the police), proceeding to the wrong door, all the while staring at the blue tiling of a bathroom floor leaving no possible doubt about its location.

Pardé is as indelicate with temporality as it is with symbolism and its imagery – time passes in the same rate as the images play across the screen. Neither time’s dilation nor its contraction is indicated at any moment cinematically, although occasionally it does change, as when the writer hides with his dog from intruders in a secret room, only to step out from his hiding place mere moments after their sound ceases

We are asked to forgive these failings only because of Jafar Panahi’s legal situation – the prohibition against his creating images. Courageous as the director(s) might be for making this film, the anecdotal circumstances of the film’s creation can never stand for the film itself, which is never anything more than images flickering across the screen and sounds emanating from the speakers during the given time of its length. And even if the artist was able to bravely circumvent the authorities’ prohibition, his own artistic duties can never be so avoided.

Yet, for this film in particular, the audience seems willing to forgive its lack of subtlety and precision because of how the film confirms the image we (the West) have constructed for ourselves of Iran – that of oppression, tyranny, censorship. We watch these images of the other with the hopes to see a renewed gaze returned to us, yet we receive little more than the reflection of our own regard, or perhaps an imitation of this regard,  the regard the other believes we wish to see.

Pardé (Closed Curtain)
Iran 2013, 106 min
Direcor: Jafar Panahi, Kamboziya Partovi



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