The final, ”Women without men, ”BNA”, etc.

Country: Iran

Gender: Magical Realistic Drama

Director: Shirin Neshat

Cast: Shabnam Tolouei, Pegah Ferydoni, Arita Shahrzad, Orsolya Tóth, Mehdi Moinzadeh, Navíd Akhavan, Mina Azarian, Bijan Daneshmand.

Released on Criterion Channel as part of a collection of films scored by Ryuichi Sakamoto, women without men is an elegant exploration of gender issues in the Islamic world that actually originated in a video installation by the artist Shirin Neshat. Neshat would turn women without men in a feature film in his stunning debut loosely adapted from a magical realist novel by Shahrnush Parsipur. As such, women without men, which is set against the politically turbulent background of 1953 Iran – just on the eve of the CIA-backed coup that brought the Shah of Iran back to power – is somewhat disconnected in its weaving of stories of four women all suffering under the oppressive domination of men. One is the wealthy wife of a general who keeps finding new wives, one an aspiring revolutionary, another is a disillusioned prostitute, and the last is a young protected woman recovering from an assault. The film wanders pensively through their separate lives in delicate little vignettes that have a hint of surrealism, culminating in each of them at some point taking refuge in the wealthy wife’s orchard, a charming secluded mansion that becomes a haven for women, even as the country around them crumbles. Neshat’s experience as a visual artist makes women without men a visually arresting experience that imbues a familiar groundbreaking storyline with a kind of otherworldly magic.

Watch this if you like: Persepolis, love in the time of cholera, your magical realism with a dose of political turmoil.

Kimberly B. Nguyen