Iranian New Wave sensation Downpour (1972) is an incisive social critique

Downpour is our predilection for scandal surfacing in destructive and ignorant ways. Behram Beyzai’s vision for Hekmati’s (Parvis Fannizadeh) character was that of a humble servant of the community, within an innate sense of goodness, yet he still gets exposed inside of a communal lie meant to suppress an outsider’s influence. It’s a daring piece of filmmaking, with a provocative visual element, conveying deep seeded desire that can’t be expressed in words. It’s a poetic script, even if mired in malicious rumors – with the central romance between Hekmati and the young lady he’s accused of taboo, unacceptable behavior with, Atie (Parvaneh Massoumi), doing a beautiful job communicating through gesture and eyes. It’s a broader discussion about office politics and social relevant relationship practices that should be private. It’s an experience that leans into humiliation and pops out a wonderfully obscene character study.

The inner desire of Hekmati for Atie can’t help but come pouring out. It’s an unexplainable desire, trapped in the confines of traditionalist mentalities lacking any nuance or romanticism. Hekmati’s plight is exaggerated in the visual language of the film, as he paints a picture of a town with a watchful eye over his actions. It makes his subtlety in the acting and dialogue that much more important. The scenes where Hekmati finally is able to speak with Aite privately are met with a feverishly potent sense of desire, but is soon met with direct opposition outside the confines of their discussions.

Furthermore, the cinematography of Barbod Taheri captures the distance between him and the rest of the world, mainly Atie. The film starts with full and wide shots and progressively moves in with tighter frames and medium close-ups. As Atie and Hekmati established a burgeoning relationship, the environment of the camera shapes to the new dynamics. The shot of kids, hiding in trees, listening and observing Hekmati and Atie is a perfectly aligned shot thematically and speaks to Beyzai’s vision for this film. Blending formalism with surrealism and a wide variety of tones and styles for a film purposefully working into the neo-realist look at schooling and tradition in Iran.

The title of the film refers to the quick forming and dissipating rain clouds in Iran, but the rain is prevalent in this matter. Beyzai made this film essentially to be an autobiographical retelling of his story, and Downpour refers to man that makes an imprint on a place but is gone before you know it. The lingering resentment Hekmati feels for Atie and this situation is how Beyzai’s felt and wants the audience to experience as well. Shame and humiliation are a tough set of emotions to grapple with but Beyzai makes it worthwhile with the conclusion of Hekmati’s arc.

In closing, it’s a special piece of cinema out of the Iranian New Wave. Questioning structure and tradition openly, not afraid to offend the systems in place. A film with an extremely observant nature that shows in the filmmaking, acting and script. 

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