Deserted Station (review)

A photographer drives dusty desert roads, stopping occasionally to shoot crumbling ruins and barren landscapes — another example, one imagines right then, but not an unwelcome one, of the feature-length loneliness-and-desolation metaphors that sear achingly through contemporary Iranian film till you can feel the pain of an astoundingly creative industry cut off from the wider world. (Mahammad Aladpoush’s cinematography is simple and breathtaking.) But it takes on another angle when the photographer’s wife — whom, geez, you could swear was not in the car a minute ago — suddenly appears in the passenger seat of his truck, sleeping fitfully, adjusting her hejab head scarf for modesty even in her semiconscious state. Ah, the invisibility of women in this culture will take a hit — good. (Even the gentle husband, played by sweetly sad-faced Nezam Manouchehri, says “The best woman is a sleeping one.”) An entire invisible settlement of women and children appears just as their truck breaks down, and the wife (lovely Leila Hatami), a former schoolteacher, spends the day with the kids while her husband goes off to a distant town with their regular teacher/mechanic/only adult male in town (Mehran Rajabi) for a needed replacement part. The parentless children and the childless woman form an odd, tender bond during the day while the men are away, and while there’s a tenuous sense of unreality to much that happens, director Alireza Raisian ensures that the emotions of this quick and inevitable bond couldn’t be more real, and that we’re seeing a hidden world of rooted practicality and unfilled dreams of everyone not-men, one the men of this culture never recognize.

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