Silence Between Two Thoughts
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Babak Payami
with Kamalan Narouii, Maryam Moghaddam
release UK 11.Jun.04
03/Iran 1h35

"God always has mercy on sinful orphans": Narouii (top) and Moghaddam

see also: Payami's Secret Ballot

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Silence Between Two Thoughts Without even watching this film, the Iranian authorities detained Payami and confiscated the negatives. He managed to save a back-up copy before he escaped from the country, and the film is a minor masterpiece--a moving and economical story that profoundly examines the raw truths of fundamentalism.

In a remote corner of Afghanistan, the religious tyrant Haji has taken control of a tiny village, winning over many young local men to his cause, but remaining at odds with the local spiritual leader Moazen. The story centres on a young man (Narouii) working for Haji who while executing prisoners is stopped because the next woman to be shot is a virgin (Moghaddam), and by definition she must be innocent! So Haji orders the executioner to marry the condemned woman--with obvious repercussions. In his confusion, the executioner turns to Moazen, his young stepsister and his stepfather, who calls him a traitor to both his people and to God for siding with Haji.

Like his previous movie Secret Ballot, Payami films in extremely long takes that are virtually silent yet still manner to speak volumes; the breathtaking opening shot is more than 10 minutes long and establishes the entire story. This minimalist approach makes the film feel deeply realistic and beautifully artistic at the same time, bringing out sharp edges of personality, colourful culture and the struggle for life and truth in the middle of this parched and literally God-forsaken desert. All of this happens in such an understated way that it works itself deep under our skin and says more than 100 preachy mainstream movies (if big-time filmmakers could be bothered to make a film about such a relevant topic).

Moghaddam is the only professional actor in the cast, and she brings a quiet strength to her role--without even saying anything we can tell this woman is opinionated and resolved. And when she does speak she's calmly radical. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast grows on us, and Narouii's expressive face brilliantly draws us into his inner turmoil to such a degree that the emotional punches hit us powerfully. The title refers to that dawning moment when the main character realises he must abandon fundamentalism for truth. This is very strong stuff--"Guns have no shame; they don't know right from wrong"--and Payami tells the story unblinkingly. Don't miss it!

cert PG themes, some violence 25.May.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Silence Between Two Thoughts Stephen E, London: 1.5/5 "This film sounded interesting, and could have been astonishing. Unfortunately it was excruciatingly dull, with little in the way of plot development. Instead, we were given overly-lengthy, sparse scenes with nothing happening at all. As for it being an exploration of fundamentalism ... c'mon! The audience weren't told at any point who these people were, or where they were. It was almost Beckettian in that respect. Any discussion of cultural mores, the impact of the central moral/theological 'dilemma', or even the currently significant East/West disenfranchisement was hence rendered void. There was also no attempt made at characterisation, or even establishing relationships between the cut-outs mooching around in the desert. The dialogue (albeit minimal) was also far from enlightening. 'Guns have no morals,' says the prospective victim of the executioner. Crikey! And that was the best line. The part that truly tried my patience (other than the three-minute long 'protagonist rolls up his sleeves one by one' episode) was the silent scene in the cell where the executioner re-arranges linen on the floor for at least four minutes. We walked out at this point, followed by many others. This was over an hour into the film, wherein precisely zilch of any note had occurred, and we still didn't give a stuff about the destiny of anyone on-screen. How long is this film? And is there anything resembling emotion, tension, action, resolution, plot or provocative content in the remainder? Who is this film for? And what's the point of it? I'm genuinely confused as to why this film is being rated so highly." (8.Jun.04)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall