By Sascha Krieger
Sheytan vojud nadarad (Competition / Germany, Czech Republic, Iran / Director: Mohammad Rasoulouf)
A man drives down a winding ramp in a parking garage. Dreary, badly lit, like a maze he will not get out of. Near the end, he will drive it up again, no beginning, no end. At least not for him. In the first of the film’s four episodes, a man goes through his everyday life, stoically, without much emotion, not even when quarreling with his wife when she complaints about the many small instances of discrimination in today’s Iran. Small hints at a country in which all is not okay, but nothing (except maybe the moment when the man stays put at a green light on his way to work) to prepare the viewer for the brutal, abrupt, frighteningly matter-of-fact ending. Narrated in a naturalistic style, this unspectacular story suddenly opens up a universe of moral questions – and completely changes the look at the character and everything else we’ve seen. This first of four stories about the death penalty and the moral decisions to be made when having – presumably – no choice is the strongest as the film suffers somewhat from the problem of episode films. Having introduce the issue, it widens the conversation: episodes 2 and 3 deal with different choices when faced with the order to kill, the third opening the perspective on the consequences this has on a person’s life and those around them, with episode 4 looking at the long-term effects. This all makes sense, is well-observed and without simple answers. The quality of the episodes vary, however. Especially the second is rather heavy-handed with a way to easy outcome, episode 3 could do with a little less of the dramatics while episode 4 comes closest to resume the opening story’s serious tone, showing what the decision to kill or not to kill really does to those confronted with it. Overall, this is a film that gets under the audience’s skin, asking the right questions and mostly in the right ways. Not a lesson but a maze in which simple answers and clear ways out are impossible to come by. It ends with a standstill, a tiny car in the distance among a hostile wide landscape. Where to go? Nobody knows.