Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Tehran. A child is born in the hospital. The grandmother finds out it is a girl, even though the ultrasound indicated it was suppose to be a boy, and thus runs away from the hospital, fearing what the father will say... On the street, two women were released from jail, but one of them gets arrested for wanting to sell a necklace and flee the city. The other girl, Nargess, buys a bus ticket to a city abroad, but hesitates to enter it... Another woman, Pari, runs away from her home when her two angry brothers storm in. She is pregnant and wants to make an abortion, but she needs a permit from her husband, who in turn was executed. She finds a mother who abandoned her little daughter on the street. Pari enters a car, but the driver turns out to be a police officer. Pari escapes. The police stop a woman who was driving with a man who is not her husband, suspecting she is a prostitute. The man is released while the woman is brought to the prison. In there, all the previous women find themselves in the same cell.
Jafar Panahi is among only a handful of directors whose film starts off seemingly as boring only to by the end grip the viewers to such an extent that they are electrified and do not want it to end without a resolution. In this film, Panahi ripped through the standard conventions of Iran's picture-book cinema in order to show something different, an untypical, dark, realistic feminist film in the form of one giant commentary on the misogyny of the society that already starts in the opening scene with the birth of a baby girl, whose grandmother fears that her own gender already disappointed her father. Even though it is somewhat burdened by the heavy "social issue" use, "The Circle" manages to rise above such a predictable delivery of a message thanks to four stories of women without a protagonist, meandering and switching from one story to another thanks to wonderful elegance and swift editing. Through the actions of the women, Panahi speaks out about the discrimination of women (when Nargess wants to buy a shirt for a man in a store, but doesn't know his size, the clerk says: "You women, you always forget everything!"; when she wants to buy a bus ticket, the clerk warns her that she cannot without the permit of a man or a proof that she is a student; when a woman is arrested for driving in the car with a man to whom she is not married, the police let him go, but arrest her...), assembling thus a cyclic structure of the problem which corresponds to both its title and the ending that returns to the opening story. Panahi is subtle — at times, even too subtle, since some themes can only be hinted at due to the restrictions of the Iranian government (abortion, prostitution...) — yet his honesty and humanity simply come to full expression.