Monday, March 14, 2005

lizards and tree-humans

i finally had a chance to watch the bootlegged copy of the film "Marmoolak" (the Lizard) that we bought from a street merchant in front of the famed Cafe Naderi. now, i know i missed the boat on all the heated discussions that went around when the film was first released about a year ago, but i cant help but put in my quick two cents.

When the film came out, the Iranian "opposition" was giddy with what they labeled an "anti-clerical" and "anti-religious" film, and their interpretations of the movie and their ensuing joy was further confirmed when hardliners in Iran variously banned, un-banned, and then re-banned the film.

the thing is--and i make this claim based on a single viewing of a halting cd that kept having to be messed with so that it would play--i didnt find the film to be either anti-religious or anti-clerical. on the contrary, the movie seemed ultimately to be a redemption of both.

after all, didn't the escaped convict in the end become "good" by first disingenously repeating the words he'd heard from a cleric and pretending to do the just deeds of one and eventually following them with sincerity? A repeat offender, Reza the lizard became a productive member of society not under the thumb of the warden with big theories about disciplining and reforming prisoners, but in the robes of a cleric who was involved--albeit without initially wanting to be--at various levels of his society (In this sense the film can be fairly labeled anti-prison). was it not the words of the likeable cleric whose robes he stole to escape prison, "there are as many ways to reach god as there are people", and not being holed up and punished in solitary confinement, that in the end led the hero/anti-hero to reform not only himself, but also to change the handful of the town's biggest thugs and criminals? what about the very last scene, where reza is effectively identified with the messiah of the Shi'a, the twelfth Imam Mahdi, as the once empty mosque, now brimming thanks to reza, awaits him in vein?

In the end, everyone, including the seemingly unchangeable, all reached god, and more specifically, they went to the mosque proper, worshipping in the traditional manner. And it cannot be overlooked that it was the words and deeds of clerics--both those of the main character who pretended to be one and, perhaps more importantly, the the kind and pure cleric we meet at the beginning whose clothes and identity reza steals--that are responsible for the turn to god and religion.

so much for an anti-religious, anti-clerical film then.


and now from film to books:

thanks to a link on Ali-Reza's blog, i found this great anti-censorship project designed to give access to literary material that has been partially or wholly banned for publication in iran.

i'd been searching a long time for a persian copy of Parsipour's Women Without Men, and i finally found it on this anti-censorship site the other night.

it's short and wont take more than a couple of hours to read. i liked it so much i devoured it in an evening, and now i am re-reading it with simultaneous translations out-loud for R., who seems to like the novella even more than i do.

we both think it should be made into a film, and if it is, i would like to be cast in the part of the the tree-human, both because it would best fit my acting capabilities, and well, because i like trees.