Director: Jafar Panahi
Writer: Kambuzia Partovi
Runtime: 90 min
Color: ColorTHE CIRCLE won the prestigious Golden Lion award at the 2000 Venice Film Festival.
Dayereh opens rather ominously with a black screen and the beginnings of the moaning of a woman that soon rise to screams. As a viewer you wonder is the woman is having a nightmare being assaulted or something far worse. The screams soon stop to be replaced by the sounds of an infant crying. The black screen slowly brightens to the dull grayish white walls of a door with a sliding window that is closed shut. A nurse slides it open and calls out a name. An old woman clad in a black chador approaches and is told “Congratulations.. It’s a girl!” and the window slides shut. The woman knocks tentatively on the window again and as it slides open a different nurse opens it. The woman asks about the gender of the child again and is once again told it is a girl. The old woman responds ”But the ultrasound said it would be a boy”.
The profound implications of the birth of a girl are seen on the deep lines of the woman’s mother, the news is to be passed on to the rest of the family. As the grandmother’s relative goes down the spiral stairs of the hospital to the street outside, she is asked if she has change to make a telephone call by two women, Arezou (Mariam Palvin Almani) and Nargess (Nargess Mamizadeh). And thus begins another narrative about these two women temporarily out of prison. They are trying to raise cash for a bus ticket to Nargess’s hometown a place that is supposedly paradise while they try to avoid the police. While Nargess does manage to buy a bus ticket, she does not board the bus what about Arezou? Nargess tries to see her friend Pari (Fereshteh Sadr Orfani) who has recently escaped from prison and is pregnant and unmarried and is trying to get an abortion. Unable to find anyone who can help (papers need to be signed for the procedure and permission granted by the woman’s husband), she roams the streets of Teheran and encounters a poor woman as she prepares to abandon her child (a girl) who she can no longer support.
This movie is characterized by a number of riveting yet seemingly random converging narratives, where one character’s story ends another one begins, but does it? There are motifs alluding to a circle throughout the film. The opening long continuous shot down the spiral staircase in the hospital, Nargess watching Arezou go up the circular staircase of an office building as they try to raise money, and the chilling closing scene.
I wonder if the director meant it as a metaphor for the seemingly hopeless existence of women under the rule of the conservative Islamic clergy where their lives are lived in the shadows of men no matter what their particular set of circumstances maybe. They are all treated the same, as something lesser then men whether they are simple every day tasks of life like buying a ticket, enduring lewd acts on the street which seemingly have no reprisals or the possibility that a woman’s liberty may be taken away even at the slightest hint of a lack of virtuosity.
There really are no redeeming male characters in this movie save Pari’s father who tries to protect his daughter from her brothers who seek her out with malice after her release from prison.
This movie has almost no professional actors which actually gives this movie a documentary like look thus making it more potent in its effect on the audience. Having said that, I have to say that the principal actors in Dariyeh portray their characters with stunning effect.
Dariyeh ends leaving you with a sense of discomfort and without a resolution. The film has been banned in