This series of formally daring vignettes about the absurdity and menace of state control in Iran is laced with both scathing irony and glimmers of hope.
Inspired by classical Persian ghazal poetry and taking its title from a work by Iranian iconoclast Forugh Farrokhzad, Terrestrial Verses is comprised of vignettes that capture the plight of ordinary Iranians navigating increasingly oppressive life in Tehran. Cycling from birth to death, it begins with a controversy over the naming of an infant and moves through stories of everyday people facing off against the system, from a frustrated, politically censored filmmaker (with echoes of Jafar Panahi) to a teenage girl who – in one of the film’s most daring episodes – confronts her school after being caught with a boy on a motorcycle.
In their potent first collaboration, award-wining Iranian directors Ali Asgari (The Silence, MIFF 2016; The Baby, MIFF 2015) and Alireza Khatami (Oblivion Verses) deliver a biting portrait of working-class people pushing back against the indignities – and absurdities – of Iran’s religious and bureaucratic institutions. Shot with formal rigour and rife with dry, sometimes dark humour, this is an emotionally nuanced drama of resilience and optimism in the face of social constraint.
A marvel of potent understatement. With its piercing glimpses of courage and backtalk in the face of totalitarian edicts and fundamentalism, the film offers hope.
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