3 Faces

 

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A journey that takes us into the lives of villagers in north-western Iran.

   
3 Faces  

Marziyeh Rezaei

 

This is the fourth defiant work from the Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi since 2010 when the authorities stamped down on him and banned him from making films. Since then he has created pieces reflecting the situation in which he found himself and his bravery in doing so has been widely admired. In point of fact This Is Not a Film (2011), Closed Curtain (2013) and Taxi Tehran (2015) were all shaped by the restrictions imposed even as they defied them (the first two were shot indoors and the third took place within a taxi being driven by Panahi). In 3 Faces Panahi once again appears as himself, but this time there is a key difference.

 

The significant fact about 3 Faces is that it takes place out of doors. We see Panahi driving the actress Behnaz Jafari, playing a version of herself, to the village of Saran in the mountainous region of Azerbaijan. These two are on a special mission because the actress is anxious to ascertain the fate of a would-be actress, Marziyeh Rezaei, who has sent a video to Panahi to be shown to Jafari. In it she begs for help given that her family are challenging her wish to act. More disturbingly by far the video seems to end with the girl's suicide, but this may not be real. It is to find out the truth of the situation that the travellers have set out on their overnight journey.

 

That Jafari is supposed to be on set filming but has abandoned that to undertake this trip does perhaps require an effortful suspension of disbelief. However, while the truth about Marziyeh offers a thread to intrigue us, 3 Faces does not depend on its story to draw in the viewer. In his earlier days, Panahi was an assistant director working with the late Abbas Kiarostami and 3 Faces is far more indebted to Panahi's mentor than any other of his films. There is not only the fact that a car journey features prominently but the presence too of other elements that encourage this comparison: the richness of observation of country folk who never look like actors and the strong sense of atmosphere that stems from the location shooting. 3 Faces is not only well photographed but conveys the release that Panahi seems to have found in shooting out of doors again.

 

The appeal of this film is undoubtedly specialised given the quintessentially Iranian minimalism of the material and its presentation. In Offside (2006) Panahi made a film built around the restrictions on women spectators at major sporting events in stadiums and ultimately 3 Faces seems to be a comment on the difficulties faced by Iranian women who want a career linked to art or entertainment (Jafari and Marziyeh may be the two central female characters but veteran actress Shahrzad, also a poet and a painter, is referenced too in special ways). The traditionalism still defining attitudes in these rural areas is another theme here (and not always without a comic aspect as evidenced by beliefs expressed about preserved foreskins). But what impresses most is Panahi's ability to take things even further than Kiarostami who is again echoed in the film's final shot: no other film that I know has made me feel so strongly that I was sharing in a journey which, complete with delays, mishaps and uncertainties, felt so completely real.

 

Original title: Se rokh.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Behnaz Jafari, Jafar Panahi, Marziyeh Rezaei, Maedeh Erteghaei, Narges Del Aram, Fatemeh Ismaeilnejad, Yadollah Dadashnejad, Ahmad Naderi Mehr, Hassan Mihammadi, Mehdi Panahi.

 

Dir Jafar Panahi, Pro Jafar Panahi, Screenplay Jafar Panahi with Nader Saeivar, Ph Amin Jafari, Set Des Leila Naghdi, Ed Mastaneh Mohajer, Costumes Leila Naghdi.

  
Jafar Panahi Film Productions-New Wave Films.
101 mins. Iran. 2018. Rel: 29 March 2019. Cert. 15.