In his film “There is no Satan”, director Muhammad Rasoul F is keen to look at the concept of evil in isolation from all theological and metaphysical interpretations that link him with Satan to bring him back to the essence of human action, with all his political and social referrals.
Evil here is perpetrated by man and not others, and remains a confined act within human society, and he has no metaphysical extensions such as those to which religious interpretations refer to us, but rather it is the product of ill-treatment and absenteeism of human consciousness and freedom of choice that makes people deviate from their human essence, for personal temptations and ambitions and subject to tyrannical regimes and forces.
The magnitude of the challenge of such a view of a theocratic system based on religious foundations and based on the jurisdiction of the jurist (the most senior cleric) in the structure of his political system, such as the ruling regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which makes frequent use of the metaphor of Satan even in his political jurisprudence (the Great Satan) is not hidden.
This topic is not far from the concerns of director Rasoul F in his previous films, but this film represents the climax of his maturity in dealing with this subject and overlooked many of the gaps and exaggerations he presented in the image of the executioner or perpetrator of evil in his previous films (and this is what we will explain later in this article).
The golden bereal bear
This treatment led the jury of its 70th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) to crown the movie “No Satan” with the Golden Bear award, which is the highest award awarded by the festival.
The jury justified its decision to award the film this award through its president, actor Jeremy Irons, who described the film as showing how “a network of tyrannical regime weaves its strings between ordinary people and drags them into inhumanity”.
The scene of the empty director’s seat that we saw five years ago, the moment the Iranian director Jaafar Banahi won the Golden Bear award for his movie “Taxi” in 2015, was repeated after he was unable to attend the festival after being prevented from traveling in the wake of his arrest with a group of people after meeting in his house, among them The Messenger of Av himself. The Messenger of Fez seat also appeared empty this time, after being prevented from traveling since the Iranian authorities confiscated his passport after returning from the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, in which his film “An Honest Man” culminated in the “Look What” award.
The news agencies have quoted Rasoul Af’s lawyer as saying that the Iranian authorities have activated the one-year prison sentence imposed after he was in the execution position, and that he received a text message from the judiciary accordingly, but he will not surrender and will appeal against the decision.
The problem of the Messenger of Fof with the Iranian judiciary dates back to 2011, when he and director Banahi were tried on charges of photography without obtaining official permission, and they were sentenced to six years in prison. The sentence of the Messenger of F was reduced to one year later.
The award of this movie to the Messenger of F movie comes amid a feverish political climate following the escalation of tensions and confrontations between Iran and the United States, and its intensification of economic sanctions against it.
“The banality of evil”
Over a period of about two and a half hours, Rasoul F offer his treatment in four separate chapters or stories, and it can be considered as four different short films in their narrative details and characters but they are finally organized in addressing one topic, how evil is generated in the environment of tyranny, when he weaves his strings into the actions of life Daily, and how responsible is it for people to uncover it and face it.
Rasul F spoke in perfect language in an interview with the festival via the Skype service on the subject of his movie, saying: “I wanted to talk about people who are distancing themselves and say that the decision was made by a high power … but they can actually refuse, and this is their strength.”
The power of rejection that Rasoul Fof speaks with this certain tone, is absent from the first chapter of his film, which in our view represents the true jewel of the movie, and his real achievement, which if he were satisfied with him and expanded a little to the foot of one of the unforgettable cinematic artifacts, which embody a deep philosophical concept such as “banality” Evil “as brought up by the notebook Hanna Arendent (pronounced Arent), and we see that it is the pillar on which the Messenger of Fof built his film, but later failed to provide a distinct visual embodiment of him in those additions that were included in the other parts of the film.
This paradox is what we see representing the plight of the Messenger of F cinema, which is often dragged into the problem of direct political expression, moving away from the deep metaphorical structure that envelops the flair of social criticism, quietly flowing under a general human tendency that characterizes the symbols of Iranian cinema, which gave it its spread and global acceptance as A pure human expression, despite eating local themes.
The Messenger of F succeeds in depicting human weakness, insignificance of evil, and his habit, away from the metaphysical and value concept of absolute evil, or the devil whose movie title denies his existence, but fails when he talks about heroism.
In his aforementioned interview, Rasoul Fof recounts how he inspired one of the four parts of the film after seeing a man, who had investigations with him during his prison term, out of a bank. And how did he follow him for a while, to conclude: “I realized how normal he is and how similar it is to all others. I realized there was no monster, there was no evil in front of me, only a person who does not doubt his actions.”
This explains to us the extent of the Messenger of Av’s eagerness to rely on Arendent’s concept of the “banality of evil” that has aroused evil from any value-based or metaphysical concepts emanating from the religious and sacred, and has brought him back to his earth and his humanity as a human act that Satan does not exist in (as the title of the film emphasizes), but This regularism goes with tyranny in the form of absolute or radical evil, and in that is a clear reference to the concept of radical evil in one of the most important philosophers of human thought, Auguste Kant, in his book, which he translated into Tunisian Arabic Fathi Maskini “Religion is within the confines of mere reason”, when it was given to man The condition of “freedom” that enables him to choose between the concept The theologian on the first sin that leads to that evil is an inherent part of a person since his first sin, and between his desire for good.
Arendent made her coverage of the trial of the Nazi criminal Eichmann an occasion to discuss this concept. Echmann was merely an administrative employee who could bear criminal responsibility, insisting in his defense that it is part of his administrative duty as an employee who understands only the language of management, while political responsibility rests with the entire political system Legitimate these actions and make them obligatory.
Absolute evil here is in the structure of despotism, which represents a political responsibility that stands behind the criminal responsibility committed by individuals with or without consciousness, but Eichmann himself is merely an ordinary person who is completely superficial and does not have a personal will to commit the act of evil, which he practiced within a general tyrannical system that misses the will of the person and his awareness of his freedom . Here the concept of the banality of evil is clear versus the Kantian idea of freedom.
This is the reality of the hero of Rasul F in the first chapter of his film, which titled the movie “No Satan”, Heshmat (he performed his role with the excellence of the actor Ihssan Mir Hosseini), who appears as an ordinary simple man who cuts the director out to us daily from his life starting from his departure to work carrying a bag From rice to his family and ending with his return to him. We see in him a man eager to perform his duties towards his family, and compassionate in dealing with its members, tolerant in the face of the problems of daily life, turning his car to bring his wife from her work, and his daughter from her school, then going to shopping, and entertaining his young daughter and carrying out her requests, listening to his wife’s chatter and sucking She was angry about the problems of everyday life and helped her even in the process of dyeing her hair.
A day filled with the requirements of his family, such as visiting his sick mother and caring for her, help his wife prepare for a wedding and choose the right gift.
The Messenger of F is careful to present these family details in preparation for the surprise that he saves for his viewers at the end of this part with the rise of Heshmat at dawn for his work, which we see as being in a fortified building and walled with high walls, we know that it is a prison later, and with preparation for morning coffee and eating breakfast, we see red buttons that turn green And Heshmat does nothing but a simple and careless act, one of which is pressure, to cut a messenger of Fough harshly to a platform that pulls and sees the feet hanging from a number of people who were executed and we only see their hanging legs and drops of one of them flowing under his pants.
The Messenger of Fof ends this part of his movie with that cruel snapshot that contradicts all that compassion and compassion that he published in depicting his hero’s daily life.
In the second chapter of the movie titled “She Said: You Can Do It”, which is what we see as the weakest parts of the film, we see Boya (young actor Kawa Ahnger) who is a conscript who is in distress between his military duty that obliges him to participate in the execution of a person who has been sentenced to death. His conscience, who refuses to take part in the killing of an innocent person, may be innocent.
We see Boya anxious and terrified, and he requests the help of his colleagues in the military unit (prison), one of whom talks about the simplicity and the usual implementation of the order in response to what he sees as justice of the law and offers him another to carry out the work in his place in exchange for a large sum of money, and he calls one of them to contact his girlfriend who encourages him to refuse to implement orders And running away from prison, and one of them hands him before he goes to implement the order a small paper in which he outlines a plan to escape.
Boya, whom we initially see shaken and frightened, turns into a brave man who steals the prison guard rifle accompanying him, and escapes from the fortified prison after he can surprise the officer in charge of the prison gate and the escort accompanying him, handcuffing them and going out as his sweetheart waits for her in her car and drives him on a journey through Mountains to the tunes of the Italian folk song “Bella Chao”, which turned into an anthem of resistance against fascism.
In the third part, titled “Birthday,” we turn to the story of Jawad (actor Muhammad Wali Zadghan), a young recruiter who goes on vacation to visit his beloved’s family on the occasion of her birthday and propose to her engagement, which appears to be from an opposition family and lives in a house in the middle of a grove in the countryside. We see a horse remove his military clothes before arriving at the family’s home and bathe in the waters of the river amid a fascinating landscape, and his beloved Nana (Mehtab Tharwati), who we see that her family is busy in holding a memorial service for a friend of the family, was executed by the regime, and with the preparations for the ceremony, Jawad is the same person who participated He is carrying out his execution. Nana confesses that she remains hesitant between her love for him and her aversion to him after this incident, but the family after the memorial ceremony returns to her normal life and surprises her daughter with the gift of her birthday and she announces her engagement to a horse, and the Messenger of F leaves here the end suspended without resolving the contradictory feelings that pass inside Nana after hearing a confession Jawad.
The fourth part takes its title “Kiss Me” from an Iranian song that gained legendary fame in Iran and among Iranian political opposition during the rule of the Shah.
The words of the first passage, including what it means (translated from an English text), say: “Kiss me, kiss me for the last time. Goodbye. I’m heading to my destiny. Our spring has passed and our past has passed, and I’m still searching for fate.”
At the beginning of the spread of this song, Izzatullah Siamak, a leader in the secret military organization of the Iranian Communist Party “Tudeh”, was said to have written it for his daughter before his execution, but it later turned out to be a poem by the Iranian poet and activist in the Iranian national movement and close to former Prime Minister Mosaddegh, Haider Regabi, Who was writing under the pseudonym (Hala), concealing from the pursuit of the shah secret police after Mossadegh’s overthrow.
In this part, we follow Derya (her role is directed by the daughter of the director himself, who received the award on his behalf, Baran Rasul F), who returns from her university in Germany to Iran to be received by her uncle Bahram (actor Muhammad Siddiqui Mehr) and his wife, and they take her to their house in a remote rural area, where they live On beekeeping despite studying medicine.
We see Bahram and his wife worried about how to tell her the secret that he kept hidden from her throughout her life, which is that Bahram is her real father, and he had to register it in the name of a friend who has protection for her while he was a political opponent and a stalker of the authorities, and he refused to contribute during his military service to carrying out the execution of an opponent (and here he linked The second story).
Bahram takes Derya on a trip to hunt a fox that threatens the farm’s poultry, but he really wants to be alone and inform her about the secret he kept from her, so she tells him that she refuses to kill any living creature, and Bahram appears before her enthusiastic hunting even though we see him in other scenes looking after bees without Mask and puts food daily for the fox himself in front of his country house.
The Messenger of F end his film with an angry anger from her father whom she calls “her biological father” and accused him of selfishness because he did not inform her of the truth except the moment of his illness and his feeling that he was about to die, and she handled her bags to return to her studies in Germany without being accepted by the farewell kiss before his expected departure.
On the edge of melodrama
The Messenger of Fa’s wanted the structure of his movie to be organized in four movements and in different rhythms closer to the symphony structure, so we see him moving from the slow rhythm in the first part to a fast movement rhythm and a sharp cut in the second part and then back to the slow rhythm in the last two parts.
However, with the exception of the first part, the last three parts of the film seemed to carry a lot of narrative padding and proceeded to address them on the edge of the melodrama. The second part appeared in an ordinary action movie, and it contained a clear exaggeration in drawing the starring of his main character, which also extended to the performance of his main actor.
The performance of the actors varied greatly in the four parts of the film, while the actor Ihssan Mir Hosseini excelled in the performance of the character “Heshmat” in the first part very simply and without any emotions or exaggerated expressions, Kawa Ahnger’s performance came as Boya in the second part, full of these exaggerations with expressions Emotional. From our follow-up to the other films of the Messenger of Af, we monitor his poor dealings with his actor, whose feeling doubles when compared with the management of the actor among his citizens, Asghar Farhadi or Abbas Kiarostami.
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The tyranny and its impact on crushing and destroying human dignity remains an issue that has been raised by Rasul Faf in most of his films, whether in his first films that took a symbolic approach in dealing with this issue amid interest in the aesthetics of the image, as is the case with “Dusk” 2002 or “Iron Island” 2005 and ” The White Steppe “2009, and in the last film, the treatment took on a legendary dimension with the personality of the Collector of Tears, which brings together the tears of the bereaved people who live on salt-water islands in the middle of the sea, to finally wash them with ulcerated feet for a rich and authoritarian owner in the region.
He continued with his move to the critical reality that distinguished his recent films, as is the case with “Farewell”, who won the director’s award in 2011 in the “Look What” section, the second demonstration at the Cannes Film Festival after the official competition, and “the manuscripts will not burn”, which was shown In the same department in 2013 he won the International Federation of Film Critics (Vipresi) award, and “An honest man” who was crowned the main prize in the same section at the Cannes Festival in 2017.
The “No Satan” represents the highest point in a graphical curve that represents the development of the maturity of the artistic messenger of Af, and here we can set a brief example in comparison to his depiction of the character of the executioner or the perpetrator of evil between the character “Heshmat” in this movie and the character of “Khusraw” and his colleague “Mortada” in The “Manuscripts Will Not Burn” movie, which tortures and kills political opponents, and looks more like hired killers in an American movement movie. The Khusraw character is depicted in a melodramatic exaggeration, and it seems closer to the cartoon character in its distribution between his poverty, his son’s illness, and his sadism in torturing opponents or his guilt, as he steals food from the victim’s refrigerator that tortures him.
The professional level shown in the film raises many questions about the mechanism of the implementation of Messenger F of his films directly opposing the regime in Iran, especially when compared to his colleague, who is also banned from travel, Jafar Banahi, who performs his films with low budgets and simple technical capabilities and via a portable video camera with With low image resolution, we see Messenger F performs his films under highly productive and professional conditions. On the level of the image, director of photography Ashkan Ashkani (previously worked with Rasul F in an honest man’s movie) seemed relaxed in the implementation of these external scenes implemented for the wide screen and is interested in drawing their aesthetics, as well as with his care to distribute light projections and the distribution of blocks and characters in the interior scenes.
In the soundtrack, Rasul Faf worked with a professional musician, Prince Mulukpoor, who was known for his interest in Iranian folkloric music and Zoroastrian religious rite in particular.
The Berlinale Award, and before it the three awards in “What Look” in Cannes, was placed Rasul F in front of the Iranian film scene. Throughout history, the Berlin Film Festival has been the gateway to the international fame of many Iranian directors since the late director Sohrab’s third martyr was crowned with some of his awards in the 1970s.
This is the third time that Iranian directors have picked up the grand festival award, starting with the film Asfal by Asghar Farhadi, in 2011 and passing by Jafar Taxi with an end to the last film, in addition to receiving a number of other festival awards in previous sessions.
In all of his recent films, Rasoul F chose the approach of acute confrontation with the ruling authority in Iran, and he continued to implement many of his films that focused on criticizing what he sees with the intent of tyranny in this authority and the role of its security apparatus in the oppression of intellectuals and the middle class aspiring to modern life in his country, which is a critical approach Direct, far from what distinguished Iranian cinema figures, such as: Darius Mahrjavi, Sohrab, a third martyr, Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhadi, Amir Naderi, and Bahram Baidai, in wrapping the social critique in their films with a metaphorical structure and general human tendency and a contemplative touch of existence that keeps them away from the direct political approach, which is what The Spanish critic, Alberto Elena, described it as a kind of “art of piety” in his book of the same title, referring to the concept drawn from the religious practice of Iranian Shiites. Perhaps this approach is what secured Iranian cinema, its independence and success despite the authoritarian regimes.
In the context of this approach, Rasoul F has succeeded in selecting a topic of great global concern, the death penalty, and discussed it within the context of his local environment in a country that places human rights organizations at the forefront of the highest countries in carrying out executions in the world. The festival presented another film that dealt with the issue of executions in Iran, but a perspective on how to address them in the media, and it is the film “Yalda: A Night of Tolerance”, by its director, Masoud Bakhshi, which is taken from a real incident on a reality show on Iranian television.