The Silence between two Thoughts - Babak Payami - Iran - 2003
The Other Cinema - London 12 June 04
In Iran they imprison filmmakers for making films and censure and ban their films. The mullahs confiscated the negative of Babak Payami’s film but he pieced it together from scraps and virtual slithers garnered from one light colour rushes tape and captured fragments.(I remember when the US abandoned their Iranian embassy in 1979 after the Islamic revolution the CIA station shredded all its secret files and the revolutionary guards spent 5 years reconstituting these shards of intelligence back to their complete and revealing substantial form) Payami’s restored film in a battered and desaturated print shimmers through the projector an assertion of life over death, voice over silence.
Two thoughts - they can only be life and death. The village has been overwhelmed by a regime, a curse of death which advances as a polyevaporative force sucking out the moisture from life, leaching the water from the earth. The camera becomes one with the relentless creep of this spreading dryness tracking and panning with the process of desiccation.
The village has been duped or tricked in to accepting the religious authority of a prophet called Hadji. The belief system postpones the execution of a virgin so that she may first be deflowered and with hymen broken caste down to hell. The executioner, the film’s protagonist stays his hand. “But where is it written ?” he asks of Hadji. There is no answer. Only silence. Perhaps it is written in the sand. The executioner becomes silence. His brain is dried out by the aridity of a theology that can equates hymeneal blood with the blood that is death. “…where is it written? There is no reply. He is turned to stone. Like the crumbling walls and cracking surfaces. Dry and silenced. Tongue tied. No answer to the riddle of the virgin. Tongue tied. He has no words to say no. He has no lines of escape. When theological or ideological babble sequester the working of mind silence is the price that is paid. In the dryness of the silence death comes and leads the way forward through the half light into darkness. The riddle of the virgin is necessary.
As the film moves over the psychotic landscape from face to wall to earth the dryness lays over the village like a spell in a fairy tale. Like the impenetrable vegetative growth that surrounds Sleeping Beauty. The impenetrable babble of dried out theology covers everything. This is a film of dust. As with Marx and with fairy tales situations change because of they are unable to contain the forces of their own inherent contradictions. It is possible to awake from the dream. The numinous quality of water and women force open our eyes. In their wild dance at the end of their pilgrimage the village women release a sweated energy which smashes the circuitry of dryness and takes possession of the film. In the sequence after the dance of the women there is the moment of water. A moment of magic which breaks the spell of dryness. We awake from the spell. The young virgin prisoner stands in front of a fathomless dark container of crystal clear water. At this point only an action can destroy the silence not words. Her hands break the surface of the water immersing completely combining with the fluid. At once the curse is banished the weight lifted. Too late for those trapped in silence. Afterwards it is not possible to know if anything has changed, we cannot see that far but dryness has experienced the power of water to germinate and purify. Adrin Neatrour 21 June 04