‘Beyond the Wall’ Review: A Powerful, Twisty Drama About Iranian State Repression


Iranian director Vahid Jalilvand’s second movie No Date, No Signature grew to become Iran’s submission in 2019 for the Oscars’ Best Film Not within the English Language class. It could be a miracle if his newest, Venice competitors entrant Beyond the Wall, gleaned the identical honor, not as a result of it wouldn’t be a worthy alternative — it’s a ravaging, highly effective work. It’s simply that it’s unimaginable to think about the Iranian authorities would approve submitting it.

Overtly essential of the repressive state equipment, particularly its capriciously merciless and violent police forces and cruel justice system, this characteristic performed in Venice with out Iranian authorities help and little question locations Jalilvand within the ranks of audacious cinema dissidents, together with at present imprisoned filmmakers Jafar Panahi (whose newest No Bears additionally performs Venice this 12 months), Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad.

Beyond the Wall

The Bottom Line

Powerfully smashes the partitions of realism.

Venue: Venice Film Festival (Competition)
Cast: Navid Mohammadzadeh, Diana Habibi, Amir Aghaeeer, Saeed Dakh, Danial Kheirikhah, Alireza Kamali
Director/screenwriter: Vahid Jalilvand

2 hours 6 minutes

For this twisty examine of guilt and self-sacrifice, Jalilvand has reteamed with acclaimed actor Navid Mohammadzadeh, who co-stared in Jalilvand’s No Date in addition to Saeed Roustayi’s latest Cannes competitor Leila’s Brothers. First met making an attempt to kill himself with a moist shirt and a plastic bag in a concrete bathe stall, his physique lined in bruises and squinting via near-blind eyes, Mohammadzadeh’s lead character Ali pauses his suicide try to reply an aggressive knock at his door. It appears Ali lives in an residence alone, the place he’s struggling to deal with his latest lack of imaginative and prescient. But all through the movie he has a gradual stream of visits, largely from a gruff however sympathetic physician (Amir Aghaee), a meddlesome constructing supervisor (Danial Kheirikhah) and a menacing police inspector (Saeed Dakh). The latter is on the lookout for a mysterious lady being hunted by the authorities whom they believe is hiding in Ali’s constructing.

It transpires that whereas answering the door, the lady, Leila (Diana Habibi, improbable at channeling unhinged desperation) did certainly slip into Ali’s residence via an unlocked again door, having ascended up a spiral staircase. The staircase isn’t solely an efficient hearth escape, but in addition an apparent metaphor for the movie’s spiral narrative, which retains circling again in time to indicate earlier occasions from a unique standpoint.

Terrified for her life and practically hysterical with fear about her younger son, from whom she received separated in some form of kerfuffle, Leila hides in Ali’s residence within the shadows the place he can’t see her and tries to name a good friend for assist. Ali can solely sense her presence at first, however he leaves out meals and gently calls out to her, making an attempt to realize her belief. It would definitely be helpful to have somebody learn the letters for him that preserve getting slipped beneath his door that he can barely decipher. Eventually, Leila awakens from an epileptic match to the sound of him taking part in again her voice messages, and slowly the occasions that introduced her to his rooms are revealed.

Jalilvand began out as a theater director earlier than transferring into TV after which movie, so the stagey really feel of the scenes inside Ali’s residence would possibly look like a deliberate name again to his earlier profession at first, or a budget-saving use of a confined house. However, because the movie goes on it will get progressively stranger by way of time and house, with characters, particularly Leila, slipping out one door and reappearing once more moments later, having seemingly slipped again into the previous, a change of actuality that Ali simply rolls with.

Meanwhile, the stage, because it had been, expands to assimilate an outside scene by a closed manufacturing facility the place Leila got here a while in the past to gather her wages with different protesting staff, her mute son by her facet. They get separated when a riot breaks out and the police began randomly arresting whomever they will seize. The noise of the knocking seems to correspond to a very completely different supply — the sound design all through is eerie — and nothing is sort of what it appears. Mind you, the overhead shot of Ali’s door, in degraded digital black and white just like the feed for a CCTV system, is an apparent early giveaway as to what’s happening.

Powerful although the subject material is — and courageous for all concerned contemplating that a variety of taboo topics are touched on, from suicide to police brutality — Jalilvand’s enhancing within the ultimate stretch loses some influence with a clunkier-than-necessary tempo. Perhaps the filmmakers had been challenged by the close to two-year course of it took to finish the taking pictures, forcibly placed on pause as they had been by Mohammadzadeh catching COVID — though that will have paid off because it helps him look virtually like a wholly completely different individual, plumper and more healthy, after we see him within the plot’s deep previous.

Despite any minor flaws, the movie’s ultimate bravura, deeply significant drone shot sends it out on a actually hovering excessive, becoming for a piece of sly, formidable accomplishment. For the document, the movie’s worldwide title Beyond the Wall is a poor substitute for the extra evocative cinematic, screenplay-style language of its authentic Farsi title Shab, Dakheli, Divar, which implies “night, interior, wall.”


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