Fireworks Wednesday

April 17, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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Director Asghar Farhadi has become a go to favorite of mine. I was very taken by his masterful “A Separation” (my review is here). Fortunately, so were enough other Americans that his earlier films are slowly being released in the U.S.  His 2009 “About Elly” (review here) was a stunning film and we now have his 2006 “Fireworks Wednesday” (review literally here) to add to the list. While not quite as polished as those last two, this is still a strong work and shows his great strength as a filmmaker. Farhadi’s films all deal with the relationship between men and women (particularly within the context of marriage) is modern Iran. If I base my understanding of Iran entirely on Farhadi’s films, I would say the country has been going through a massive cultural shift over the past 15 years and that the core of Iranian society, the family unit, has been the most affected. Farhadi seems intent on exploring these quickly shifting dynamics. This film tells the story of three different relationships, primarily through the eyes of the women. One is an idyllic young girl on the verge of marriage and madly in love; one is an angry and suspicious woman who’s marriage seems to be unraveling and the last one is a woman who’s husband left her several years ago. The young engaged girl has been brought in to houseclean for a couple about to go on vacation. She watches helplessly as the couple rages against each other and she finds herself naively drawn into their drama. The twisting plot unfolds over the course of a Wednesday, the eve of a major Iranian holiday, during which fireworks are set off, hence the name with all of its double meanings. Where this story stumbles a bit is in how long it takes the plot to unfold. The audience struggles at first to understand what we are seeing and the screamed dialogue sometimes flashes by so fast on the screen that it is difficult to follow along. It’s a small quibble but an important one. Some people in my audience fell asleep waiting for the film to take root. Once you understand what the wife is doing, the audience is drawn into whether or not she is right or paranoid. Farhadi knows how to draw deep performances out of his actors. One just has to compare the two main characters (the young girl and the married woman) to see that skill. The girl’s every move and look was so full of innocence; she is a person in love with her life who believes so much in a sort of universal fairness and it shows in every look and action she takes. On the other hand, the married woman looked so broken, exhausted and defeated all the time. Those were both such powerful performances. Also, there is a scene where the woman’s young son (maybe 6 or 7 years old) is crying and talking to his uncle. I was amazed by that scene. The boy was so realistically sobbing while trying to talk; I have no idea how Farhadi created that moment but it felt completely genuine. Farhadi also has an eye for visuals and creating elements of tension. There is a scene near the end where the husband is driving the young girl home. People in the streets are celebrating, setting off fireworks and burning things, but the feel of those streets is much more like a war zone than a celebration, suggesting the seething potential for destruction just under the surface of these people’s lives. When the girl finally reconnects with her fiance, Farhadi builds the tension of that scene flawlessly, allowing the audience to wonder where it will go and what the future might hold for this couple. When they drive off in one direct and the husband drives in another toward his fractured marriage, we can wonder how widely those two roads diverge. That that question is never close to answered is part of Farhadi’s genius as well.

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