On day 2 of SFF I journeyed to Event Cinemas George Street for Paziraie sadeh or Modest Reception, the fourth film from Iranian director Mani Haghighi and if I see anything greater in the next week and a half, I’ll be very impressed.
It is winter in Iran as Kaveh (Haghighi) and Leyla (Taraneh Alidoosti) traverse the mountain roads outside of Tehran giving out bags of money to the needy. We don’t know how much they have or how they got it, and we have no idea how the two are related – married, siblings, co-workers?
Beginning as a black comedy, with a very amusing opening sequence at border security, the narrative becomes increasingly tense and unnerving. Leyla and Kaveh must get rid of this money, one bag per person was agreed on, but just how to get the impoverished mountain-dwellers to accept it is much more difficult than they thought. The two are both liars, but sometimes they believe their lies. Sometimes they live each other’s lies, and it is impossible for the locals, or the film’s audience to discern any whole truth about them.
The film is a remarkably demoralising allegory of the broken Iranian spirit. It becomes a transcendent odyssey, mapping an easily manipulated and corrupted consciousness, as we meet spiritual men, workers, criminals, children, parents and a dying mule.
I sincerely hope this comes to MIFF this year, because it is not to be missed, and I’d like very much to harp on about it with someone else.