Reliving the Bittersweet Memory
in 73rd Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival
Can time be caught or stopped? Can we completely immerse in a beautiful moment to live in forever? Cinema began with the great moment of illusion, an audience sitting in a cinema hall, a train first moving towards them, for some of them to run away, what is real then and what is imagined?
While watching Between Revolutions – Între revoluții by the Romanian director Vlad Petri, you feel that you are in a time machine, that you are living the story again, a moment of Deja vu that reminds us of the cinema of the late great Iranian teacher, Abbas Kiarostami.
A tale of two women
In Between Revolutions, we follow the correspondence of two women, between Iran and Romania, the two young women studied medicine together in Bucharest (many Iranian students studied in Romania during the period of communist rule)we witness friendship, and young people’s lives, which we do not see as much as we see in a flashback extended through the letters of the two women.
Zahra from Iran and Maria from Romania, we learn about their friendship and their lives step by step, in a poetic language, which conveys to us the longing of both for the time of their friendship, as well as their new lives, Zahra in Tehran and Maria, who first moved to a remote area in Romania to work as a general practitioner before returning to Bucharest.
But why did Zahra return to Iran? The answer is simple: the revolution.
Between two revolutions
Through the letters of the two women, we trace Zahra’s passion for the demonstrations in Iran against the Shah. Her father is a political activist who defends personal freedoms and the rights of the poor. The family is fully integrated into demonstrations and statements in which tens of thousands of people, from different sects, groups, and ideologies, participate. This beautiful dream, the hope that Zahra describes in the eyes of Iranians, pushes Zahra to stay.
The carefully selected scenes show us the content of the letters with the gatherings and speeches of the demonstrators at times, as well as its opposite sometimes, such as watching scenes from the Iranian daily life of a family visiting a swimming pool, at the same moment while we see demonstrations bearing the image of Khomeini, the man who returned to rule Iran.
Zahra’s life, which changes slowly, is followed by a change in Maria’s life as well, as the Romanian revolution breaks out 10 years after the Iranian revolution, the general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party “Ceausescu- listens to songs of praise and then gets killed, thousands of Romanians demonstrate in the streets, before The army takes control.
Between reality and fantasy
The film relies entirely on amazing documentary material, 5 archival sources from Romania and a secret source from Iran, all of which bear a cinematic quality. The biggest Hollywood studios cannot produce costume design or set design that comes close to the quality of reality. Men and women’s fashion in Iran and its change in the shape and ambience of the streets between the moments of the demonstrations against the Shah and then the moments of the Islamists’ seizure of power is shown without loud speeches. The picture is enough, and the two women’s speeches that conceal more than they tell are also sufficient.
The change in the festive mood of the Romanians in the first moments of the revolution and then their economic suffering after the army came to power also appears without any political or economic talk. The picture, and sometimes without sound, is also quite enough.
Romanian director Vlad Petri, accompanied by writer and poet Lavinia Braniște, and of course with the help of their Iranian executive producer and crew in Iran – who has not been disclosed – present a timeless cinematic moment of illusion, in which we experience for 68 minutes a world that is no longer what it was, this achievement at the level of visual storytelling, writing, montage/editing and sound mixing leaves, with a touch of great intelligence and kindness, many blanks for the viewer himself to fill in at the end of the film, so that we are certain that the film will remain with you consciously and subconsciously after you finish watching it. Or as the Egyptian poet Salah Jahin said:” The sweetest thing in my throat is the bitter taste of memory”.
Hosam Mostafa Fahmy
Edited by Ron Fogel
© FIPRESCI 2023