IFFR 2017 – review – THE POT AND THE OAK (“Goldan va derakht-e baloot,” Kiarash Anvari, 2017, Iran/Canada)

PotAndTheOakposterBorzoo (Banipal Shomoon), an Iranian playwright, discovers that he is infertile. This triggers an existentialist crisis that immediately impacts his personal life, through the growing tensions in his marriage, and his professional life, through his inability to produce a successful play or even come up with an ending to the one he is currently writing. In little under 75 minutes, director Kiarash Anvari manages to deliver a rich movie that deals with many delicate themes in clever and challenging ways. Perhaps the most compelling theme it deals with is that of masculinity. In fact, by introducing

In little under 75 minutes, director Kiarash Anvari manages to deliver a rich movie that deals with many delicate themes in clever and challenging ways. Perhaps the most compelling theme it deals with is that of masculinity. In fact, by introducing Borzoo’s infertility in the opening sequence, the director immediately introduces the source of the character’s struggles: a genetic affront to his privileged status within the patriarchal society that he is unable to do anything about. The casting of

The casting of Shomoon as Borzoo is very appropriate; the actor’s square jaw and imposing figure, ala Xavier Bardem, creates a compelling contrast between aesthetic presence and innermost vulnerability. This is only one of the ways in which we see influences from the Theatre of the Absurd manifested in The Pot and the Oak. Seeking a sort of detachment to portray the futility of human struggle in a senseless world, the film does not seek for the audience’s sympathy for its lead character. (This is true in spite of the fact that the director told me at the 2017 International Film Festival in Rotterdam that the film was influenced by his own personal struggles and a writers’ block, during which he felt frustrated and jealous of other director’s successes.) Indeed, a leniency towards detachment can be seen in its satirical inclinations and non-sequential chronology. It may also be evinced by the style, which privileges the use of still camera shots, firmly planted on a tripod, and very few – if any – cuts during each individual scene.

Though The Pot and the Oak is set in Iran, it appears to be more influenced by a number of European sources, cinematic or theatrical, perhaps because of the bourgeois class it portrays. Yet, despite its highbrow influences and traditions, the film is not difficult to follow. The drama is intense and as it progresses, subtly opens up to unexpected developments. – ★★★★

GOLDAN VA DERAKHT-E BALOOT || 2017, Iran / Canada || Drama || Directed by – Kiarash Anvari / Produced by – Kiarash Anvari, Majid Barzegar / Written by – Kiarash Anwari, Sadaf Foroughi / Cinematography – Sina Kermanizadeh / Edited by – Emad Khodabakhsh / Starring – Banipal Shoomoon, Mehran Nael, Sadaf Foroughi / Running time: 72 mins.

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