The first third of this 1995 Iranian film, directed by Ahmad-Reza Darvish, is one of the most effective evocations of war I've seen. Set near the Iraqi border at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq conflict, the story begins with the protagonist Reza trying to find safety for his pregnant wife. Abjuring the usual war-movie tactic of following one or more principals while the secondary characters are killed, the film shows us a succession of characters, almost all of whom are captured or killed. The explosions are of modest size by Hollywood standards, but their power comes from the unpredictable way they disrupt the action. Though Iranian rage at Iraq for starting the war is at work here, what's affecting is the way each new episode pulls the ground out from under the viewer. Eventually the film settles down to a more sedate pace: nine years later the war's over, and Reza, newly released from prison, searches for his child. The obstetrician Shokuh had rescued the baby, named Kimia, and raised her as her own, and when Reza finds them he delays deciding if he will demand his daughter's return. Here the film becomes a bit more conventional, but the uncertain way Reza keeps turning up - haunting Shokuh almost to breakdown - has parallels to the chaos of the opening, reminding us that the aftermath of war can also be devastating. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, October 19, 6:00, and Sunday, October 20, 4:00, 312-443-3737.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo still.