Ziba Eslamloo, Armik Gharibian, Hasti Khaledi
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Potentially, it’s a great vehicle for allegory, socio-political satire, humanist tragedy or just absurdist humour but unfortunately the story doesn’t do all that much with the premise.
The basic idea of this film is about as ‘high-concept’ as they come: oil starts mysteriously coming out of a woman’s body. That’s oil, as in the stuff that makes economies boom and countries go to war with each other. Potentially, it’s a great vehicle for allegory, socio-political satire, humanist tragedy or just absurdist humour but unfortunately the story doesn’t do all that much with the premise. Or at least, not much that’s easily discernible to a non-Iranian viewer – there may well be symbols and allusions that make it more nuanced and multi-faceted for the initiated.
The central character, a 58-year-old woman called Foziye (Armik Gharibian), lives an austere life, as do all the other protagonists. Foziye’s existence is rendered all the harder because her husband – who worked for an oil company – has disappeared following an accident. When the oil – initially mistaken for “dark bleeding” – begins to flow, she decides to seek political asylum overseas, and to move to the countryside in the meantime – the implication possibly being that everyone in the city would now want to exploit her.
These developments, and the emotional responses of those involved, are depicted in an understated and matter-of-fact way which is initially effective enough but soon becomes somewhat dull. It’s all quite irreverent. There is, for example, an ongoing ‘joke’ about a guy who mistakes an English-language handbook on military hygiene for a prayer book. And there are references to archaic rural superstitions. But it does drag a bit, and the net result is pretty underwhelming.