Old Men Never Die
Nader Mahdilou, Hamdollah Salimi, Salman Abbasi, Neda Haghshenas, Velayat Khoobdel, Sefat Ahari
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…has its wryly inspired moments.
This is set in a remote Iranian mountain village, and the crisply filmed scenery is beautiful, but that’s almost the only thing here likely or intended to bring a smile to the viewer. It’s a very bleak story – a parable really – about mortality and death (or the downside of not dying), and while it starts with black humour it rapidly eschews the humourous element and just sticks with the black.
The basic idea is that there is a clan of old men, headed by a certain Aslan, all of whom live together. No-one in their village has died since he (a former hangman) moved there out of fear of the families of those he hanged in his former town. The old and miserable keep attempting suicide but being thwarted by local soldiers (if not by a cosmic force), while conversely the ill from elsewhere try to move to the village in hope of a ‘stay of execution’. And the relatives of the apparently immortal say things like “My father is 111 – we’ve been cleaning his shit for twenty years now”.
Old Men Never Die is evidently a remake – or, more precisely, an expansion – of a 2010 ten-minute short of the same name. At feature length, it spreads an interesting but limited idea rather too thin, and gets repetitive. There are faint echoes of Beckett, Bunuel and – closer to home – of the late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, but none of their greatness. Still, it has its wryly inspired moments.