Films of Mohsen Makhmalbaf:
1 year ago
1. Hava (Farsi for “Eve”)
The first segment involves a young girl, Hava, who wakes up on the morning of her 9th birthday and is informed that she has now “become a woman”. That means that she can no longer associate with her boy playmates in the neighborhood and that she must now begin wearing the chador, a full-lengthed veil for women in Iran. After some discussion with her mother and grandmother, Hava learns that she was born at 12 noon, so she argues that she isn’t really nine years old until noon of the present day. Thus since it is now about 11 o’clock, she has one hour of freedom left.
Hava rushes off to play with her best friend, Hassan, but she finds that he has been grounded at his home for not doing his homework. She goes off to buy some sweets for him, and returns just before noon to hand him some sweets through his window. Their innocent childhood intimacy is highlighted by a scene showing them alternatively licking the same Tootsie-roll pop that she holds out to him with her extended arm.
Finally the high noon time arrives, and Hava’s mother arrives to cloak her with a chador and whisk her away forever from her previously open and fun-filled life.
2. Ahoo (Farsi for “deer”)
The most arresting of the three tales shows a number of women, fully clothed in chadors, engaged in a long-distance bicycle race. Apparently Kish island is (at least at that time) the only place in Iran where women are allowed to ride bicycles in public. But even there, the idea of women riding a bicycle is not fully accepted by everyone. As the women cyclists race down a country ride, a man on horseback rushes upon them looking for his wife, Ahoo, who is one of the riders. He orders her to desist from this disgraceful activity, and when she persists with her racing, he rushes off to get a mullah. When Ahoo’s husband soon rejoins the racers, he is accompanied this time by a mullah, also on horseback. Losing no time at all, the shouting mullah pronounces an on-the-fly divorce, even as Ahoo continues racing down the highway.
But Ahoo continues on in the race anyway. Finally her brothers arrange an ambush for the poor woman and force her to stop so they can confiscate her bicycle.
All through this segment Ahoo has very few spoken words. Her situation is expressed visually by the racing cyclists, the intrusive horseback riders, and Ahoo’s facial expressions.
3. Hoora (Farsi for “nymph”)
Because Kish island offers duty-free merchandise, it attracts lots of bargain hunters and has a large shopping center. An elderly spinster, Hoora, arrives at the airport and hires one of the numerous young boys looking for work to wheel her around the shopping area in a wheelchair. The woman has just come into a large inheritance, and her goal is to buy all the nice household items that she had missed out on in her life. In short order Hoora has a parade of young boys trucking her vast range of purchased items, which includes a refrigerator, a stove, a bed sets, dressers, and chairs.
“If that lousy bastard had married me, I would have a son like you.”But the boy has parents of his own and is unavailable to be the woman’s adopted son.
Near the end of this segment, two of the bicycle racers from the Ahoo segment arrive and gaze at Hoora’s merchandise arrayed out on the beach.
Eventually all the boys are engaged to repack Ahoo’s merchandise and put it all on their makeshift rafts so that they can transport her goods to a ship anchored off the beach. At the very end we also see Hava, now clad in her chador, watching wistfully from a distance.
“Eastern societies face a number of elementary problems in spite of their rich cultural backgrounds and their exotic charm. Being a woman constitutes one of those problems – so much so that people begin worrying about a baby girl from the moment she is born, and at times the mother is consoled with the expression of hope that her next baby will be a boy. Women are given minor roles in society, and consequently they are transformed from producers into mere consumers and burdens to the productive segment of the society. That is why the birth of a girl is considered an increase in the number of consumers of the family income.
At the same time, the attitude of society toward women is emotional; women are either mothers or mistresses, and that is why every man tries to gain exclusive possession of his mother and his mistresses. As a result, home becomes the safest place where women can be preserved.
The Day I Became a Woman depicts the position of women for whom their gender poses a social problem. The film focuses on the lives of women who are imprisoned in the house, not because they are hated but because they are loved – women who have to forgo emotional attachments in order to gain individual independence and active social positions.”
1. Nar Singh’s World
The SDO is incensed by Nar Singh’s audacity and immediately revokes his local taxi license. Nar Singh grumbles to his loyal assistant/mechanic Rama (Robi Ghosh) that he would have groveled for mercy before the hot-headed SDO, but the Kshatriya blood flowing through his veins prevented him from doing something so humiliating. Now without a source of income, Nar Singh is even more depressed, and he glumly decides to drive back to his local district of Giribraja.
On the way, he encounters a stranded traveler, Sukhanram (Charuprakash Ghosh), who is willing to pay him to take him to another town, Shyamnagar. Because of his grudge against all women, Nar Singh baulks at taking the man’s maidservant, Gulabi (Waheeda Rehman), but he goes ahead when the traveler offers him extra money for her. When they get to Shyamnagar, Sukhanram says he will help Nar Singh set up a potentially lucrative taxi service between Sukhanram and the nearby town of Panchmati.
Then Nar Singh runs into a man, Josef Rajani Dash (Gyanesh Mukherjee), who turns out to be a distant cousin of his. Josef is very amiable towards the somewhat sullen Nar Singh and invites him to his modest home, where he meets Josef’s mother and his sister Neeli (Ruma Guha Thakurta).
With Sukhanram’s lucrative offer in mind, Nar Singh decides to hang around Shyamnagar for awhile. He spends the night in Sukhanram’s work shed, where he is soon visited by the beautiful maidservant Gulabi. It turns out that Gulabi is kept around by Sukhanram to serve as a prostitute, and she is seeking shelter for the night from Sukhanram’s client predators. Nar Singh is indifferent to her situation, but he passively allows her to spend the night in the corner of his shed.
3. Moral Concerns
But Nar Singh’s romantic interests are directed towards Neeli, and he asks her about sin and punishment from the Christian perspective. She tells him that whether one is “lowly” (as Nar Singh considers the status of Josef and Neeli to be) is solely determined by one’s inner nature, not by one’s caste. Her words seem to have an effect on Nar Singh.
As for Sukhanram’s proposition, it doesn’t take Nar Singh long to figure out that Sukhanram wants Nar Singh to serve as a transporter of illegal opium. As Sukhanram reminds him,
“Business means some straight work and some illegal. Any businessman who says he does only legal stuff is lying.”
4. Choices to be Made
To Nar Singh’s shock, Neeli approaches him after a ride and asks him to help her elope with a crippled Christian boy, Ajay, that she loves. To Nar Singh, Ajay is at the bottom of the dignity scale, with no chance to earn a decent living or command respect. And yet Neeli has chosen him!
But Nar Singh is still indifferent. He tells her that he wants to stay around and exploit his chance to make money and heighten his dignity. He goes to Sukhanram to sign a contract for his part in the illegal opium trade.
He strikes Josef down and is about to walk away, when he has a last-minute change of heart. Perhaps the words of Neeli come to his mind about who he really is. In the final scenes he rejects his opium delivery mission and rescues Gulabi from Sukhanram. As he drives away, he calls to Josef at the side of the road that they should soon rendezvous in his home town of Giribraja.
First, Filippo needs to communicate surreptitiously with Philippa. Through an extraordinarily contrived electrical accident, he sneaks a small tape recorder into Philippa’s pocket during one of her testimony sessions. When she listens to the tape back in her cell, she learns of his plan and records her willingness to proceed. However, the chances of Filippo’s plan succeeding take a devastating hit when we learn that the Carabinieri secretly record everything that goes on in Philippa’s cell; so they know all about Filippo’s intentions.
Filippo’s love for Philippa is without reservations, and he is totally committed to helping her, despite her apparent dismissal of lawful solutions to her frustrations. In that evening he sneaks her into the office of the corrupt Carabinieri Major Pini and then, pretending to be a Pini assistant, manages to convince Vendice to rush over to the office that very night. Again there are lucky circumstances, but everything breaks in Filippo’s way, and Philippa does kill Vendice.
After spending the night in the police headquarters attic, they still have to figure out a way to escape from the building, which is full of police looking for the two missing fugitives. Early in the morning they sneak down to the garage and jump into the back of a milk delivery truck that is making its rounds. The fact that they could find a spot behind some milk cartons to hide is something that Filippo is unlikely to have foreseen. When the milk truck, still making its rounds, passes near the train station, the two fugitives jump out the back and get onto a train headed for the Italian countryside, where one of Philippa’s good friends lives.
In the small picturesque town of Montepulciano, they are less likely to be identified, and things are more relaxed. Philippa and Filippo enter a church, and while sitting in the pews, Philippa “confesses” to Filippo about all the past wrongs she has committed in her life. She tells him that she has “ceased to believe’.When Filippo asks her in what she has ceased to believe, she tells him, “sense, justice, life, . . .”. This is a real Kieslowski moment. It is at this point that he tells her that he loves her. He does not want to possess her; he wants to become “one” with her, and this metaphorical union is progressing by degrees. Their names are similar, their clothes are similar, and in order to lessen the likelihood of identification, they go to a barber and get their heads shaved. So now they look very similar, too.
Filippo’s father (Remo Girone), who is a senior policeman and sympathetic to his son’s plight, arrives in the town and tells them there is now a massive manhunt throughout Italy in search of them. He offers to help them return to society, but Filippo and Philippa swear by their now mutually-confessed love and say they will struggle on alone.
Filippo and Philippa make it to their sympathetic friend’s countryside home, and that evening in the beautiful countryside surroundings, they consummate their love. This is movingly presented by Tykwer in three successive long shots (roughly 30 seconds each) showing the two of them reveling in nature's wonders and each other.
In the morning a massive and heavily armed Carabinieri SWAT team arrives. This leads to the final and most improbable escape yet. They sneak onto a momentarily unattended Carabinieri helicopter and take off as the film ends.