Film review: The White Meadows (MFF 2011)

The White Meadows
Keshtzar Haye Sepid
Sharz Tamasha Media

STARRING Younes Ghazali, Hassan Pourshirazi, Mohammad Rabbani, Mohammad Shirvani, Omid Zare
WRITTEN BY Mohammad Rasoulof
PRODUCED BY Mohammad Rasoulof
DIRECTED BY Mohammad Rasoulof

SHOT BY Ebrahim Ghafori
MUSIC BY Mohammad Reza, Darvishi
EDITED BY Jafar Panahi
DISTRIBUTED BY Global Film Initiative

Screened at the 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival

The film’s fanciful trust of alchemy and mysticism makes me think of Jodorowsky, though I detect a sense of humor in his work. Sadly, my inability to take such things seriously or to get into overt allegory made White Meadows a tough swallow for this old cynic. But no matter my opinion, it is more than worth noting that its director, Mohammad Rasoulof, is currently under house arrest along with Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (who edited this film). Yes, I can see how such filmmaking could incite the populace to violence.

The world is a sea of tears – no hyperbole. Mr. Rahmat is a ferryman who travels from salted island to salted island and who collects the tears of the wretched souls in this world (one could call him a Tear Jerk). On the first island, where a young lust-inducing female corpse (that’s their description, not mine) creates a batch of fresh mourners for our hero, a young man fibs his way onto Rahmat’s boat and becomes the ferryman’s companion for his journey. Our next stop involves a merchant who provides tiny jars into which people breathe their secrets for, I suppose, purposes of an ancient rite which doesn’t go so well. Another image coming up is of The Reluctant Bride who is set out to sea – to marry it – on a raft amidst a landscape of flaming bowls which are floating in the water (obviously). We are treated to a Satyricon-like scene with a beach full of wooden pillars and a good old stoning. We’re given a painter who is admonished for painting the sea as red – the bounder! I think you get the idea. The film comes to a close, and my best guess is that it is about empathy and comforting pain. You will, of course, draw your own conclusions.

Oh, shit. The most cursory search online informs me that the film is really about artistic expression under Iran’s antediluvian censorship standards. Naturally. If you need to find me, I’ll be hiding in a dark place.

written by David Ashley