"Mamiroo": Being Naked in Front of The Death

in 20th Busan International Film Festival

by Mo Abdi

MamirooMamiroo is a great experience from a young filmmaker (after his first feature, Bardou), who is walking on the edge in this film and is not scared to create a visual structure to build an experience. This of course presents a huge challenge, and easily could have not worked, but here, in Mamiroo, this boldness works. Removing dialogue as much as possible (all the film has less than 5 minutes dialogue), he concentrates instead on very impressive images. Empty landscapes (in a remote small village in Iran), share the loneliness of this strange character with us: a guy who we do not know a lot about- and we will never truly know even at the end.  From the start, we see a man who desperately wants to commit suicide, we do not know at all why, but bit by bit, we start to feel his struggle and follow his strange destiny.

“Destiny” is a very important word in the universe of the film and the concept of fatalism is also very strong and powerful. He wants- and he needs- to die (in the middle of the film we learn to know why), but his destiny, which is totally connected to this empty bold desert (where he was probably born, where he committed his “sin”, where he lost everything and – we are sure- where he will die), leads him to be more alive and to discover another aspect of life: when his grandson brings his wife- a woman who could be meaning of life- to this dark empty house we can feel a great happiness coming from the character’s face. However his religious beliefs- which softly exist in the deep layers of the film- and his fatalistic need to be prepared for death, create for him a new objective, that he should wait.

This preparation is the main theme in the film: how to be naked in front of The Death. At first he examines his need of clothes, but step-by-step the clothes come off, until he is totally naked with no hair, and this becomes a means to be ready for The Death. This is central, that although he wants to die, he is not able to do it, until he starts to suffer the purification, until finally he is ready. Some villagers read a ritual for him, they count the names of all the saints to remind him to remember- and one by one, when the camera stands as usual – sitting somewhere not too obtrusive and without judgment  – we see the rituals but we do not know what he is feeling. We do not know anything about his beliefs, and we are not sure if all this ritual is helpful to him or not.

Like Amour (Haneke), Mamiroo asks his audience to participate roughly in the agony of the main character. Watching Mamiroo is not easy (neither is watching Amour), and certainly it is not a film to suit every taste, but if the audience is courageous enough to experience something different – and of course painful- Mamiroo takes you somewhere very deep and far. We suffer a lot and even somehow experience The Death, but at the same time- as jury also mentioned- it is a film about life.

The film has two characters, one who feels guilty and has accepted everything around him which leads him to death, and the other one – the teenage boy (his grandson) – who is fighting for a better life and believes in love and loyalty.

The last shot is the interesting mix that lies between life and death, darkness and light, happiness and misery. All exist there, as our life. Mohaghegh has chosen a very clever style to describe his world with us and it is certain the film is deeply personal, about himself and the people who he knows (he was born not far from the place where we see in the film).

The Still Shot is a blade in his armoury of styles, like that of the great Iranian pioneer filmmaker, Sohrab Shahid Sales (who can be called the father of Abbas Kiarostami). In Mamiroo, the camera does not want to be involved, it stops somewhere and asks us to stare. It is very honest and rough, and we do not have any other choice: we have to watch and step by step we feel. There is no exaggeration; we are simply invited to see the pure reality of his life, with all the mental torment and physical agony of a character. It might not look like a nice invitation at first sight, but it is; it is pure “cinema”.

Mo Abdi