08/101. Under The Shadow (2016)
Dir.: Babak Anvari
Where there’s fear and anxiety, the winds blow.
Mentioning iranian cinema almost sounds like a declaration of cinephilia: “it’s cult”. Maybe because these movies have a very specific language and rhythm, and aren’t especially accessible. But if there’s an iranian film that might captivate different audiences, this is Under the Shadow (2016).
The movie takes place in the post-Iranian Revolution years, in the epicenter of the Iran-Iraq conflict; but nobody has to have a great knowledge about the subject to relize how the horrors of war invade the characters’ daily lives.
Because of the newly installed theocratic regime, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is a young mother who’s deprived of following her dream: studying Medicine. So, she’s relegated to being a housewife and taking care of her child; meanwhile her husband, a medical doctor, is sent to the battlefront. Left alone, mother and daughter find themselves tormented by unexplicable events that make them doubt reality itself, and start believing in the presence of jinns, creatures that give the film an uniquely dark, supernatural atmosphere.
Fear and anxiety grow exponencially together with the sensation of losing control of one’s own life, which makes the once independent woman go sour. The sudden changes in the political panorama and the war outside gradually penetrate the secrecy of home, making deep cracks, both literal and subtle.
It’s easy to find Under the Shadow listed under the “post-horror” subgenre in reviews and social media. The word is supposed to denote certain “refinement” in the form of exploring the audience’s discomfort, which is questionable, but also a subject for another day. The fact remains that, in this movie, even the good old jumpscare escapes common place. But its highes point is the claustrophobic and hypnotic perception that, as said by a favorite iranian director, Kiarostami: “Nothing is real, but the whole suggests some truth”, and it is this imprecise truth that haunts us so much.
Also, it’s on Netflix! 🐋
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