Saturday, March 21, 2015

VFF ’15: What’s the Time in Your World

The question is not why someone decided to leave Iran, but rather why on earth would they ever come back. It seems especially strange for a woman like Goli to leave the still comparative safety of Paris, but she has indeed returned. She experiences a bittersweet homecoming, with the emphasis on the bitter in Safi Yazdanian What’s the Time in Your World (trailer here), which screens during the 2015 Vilnius Film Festival. As our Baltic friends and allies cast a wary eye at their belligerent imperialist neighbors to the east, we salute their commitment to freedom and the arts, the latter most definitely reflected by this year’s “Kino Pavasaris.”

Considering Goli did not make the journey home for her mother’s funeral, many are quite surprised to see her now. It seems to have been a rather impulsively decision, but Yazdanian will slowly explain it through his examination of the expatriate psyche—at least to an extent. While her aunt is happy to see her, nobody is more pleased by the end of her exile than Farhad, the local framer. However, Goli is quite perplexed to receive so much attention from a man she does not remember.

It turns out, she and Farhad distantly traveled in the same extended social circles during her student days, but she obviously made a far greater impression on him than he did with her. Nevertheless, he stepped up considerably while she was in Paris, befriending her aunt and late mother. Given his vouched for status as a friend of the family, Farhad is now determined to woo Goli, but she remains confused and ambivalent about him.

Ostensibly, Time has nothing to do with politics, concentrating instead on fundamentally human issues, such as love, infatuation, and memory. Yet, there is a big conspicuous hole in the film where all of Goli and Farhad’s mutual friends should be. It becomes clear anyone with any talent and a minimal capacity for free-thinking finds a way to immigrate. There is a reason a drop-out like Farhad is the big man of the town. All the best and the brightest have left.

In many ways, Time is a tragic film, but its characters are too mature and world weary to engage in any sort of hand-wringing. Indeed, there is a lot of resignation, but that will not necessarily lead to reconnection and reconciliation. Frankly, that is why the chemistry between co-leads, Leila Hatami (A Separation) and Ali Mosaffa (The Past) is so hard to describe, yet so potent.

This is a small film, but it is acutely sensitive and arguably rather honest, in an oblique way. Clearly, Yazdanian is an actor’s director, but he also gives viewers a vivid sense of the northern coastal city of Rasht, as well as the considerable effort required to get there. Christophe Rezai’s distinctive guitar and strings score further heightens the melancholia, evoking both classic and contemporary musical forms.

It is a classy package well worth checking out. Should you head off to Vilnius to see it? Sure, if that is an option. If not, look for it as it continues to make the festival rounds. Recommended for thoughtful audiences, What's the Time in Your World screens this Monday (3/23) and Thursday (3/26) at this year’s Vilnius Film Festival. (Other notable highlights include Uncle Tony, Three Fools, and the Secret Service; Li’l Quinquin; Timbuktu; The Fool; Gyeongju; and Rocks in My Pockets.