Women Without Men Movie Review
Cast & Crew
Director : Shirin Neshat
Producer : Susanne Marian
Screenwriter : Shirin Neshat
Starring : Shabnam Toloui, Pegah Ferydoni, Arita Shahrzad, Orsolya Toth, Essa Zahir, Bijan Daneshmand, Tahmoures Tehrani, Navid Akhavan
Four women are struggling to cope with their place in Tehran society as their country is going through serious political upheaval. Almost 30, Munis (Toloui) lives with her brother (Zahir), who insists that she find a husband even though she doesn't want one. Her young friend Faezeh (Ferydoni) is trying to do everything the correct way; Zarin (Toth) is trapped working in a brothel. And at nearly 50, Fakhri (Shahrzad) leaves her husband (Tehrani) to open an orchard that becomes an oasis for the other women to escape their restricted lives.
Munis' opening narration refers to the fact that the only way to escape pain is to escape life, so we know this isn't going to be a cheerful film. And yet writer-director Neshat injects the story with so much life that we see hope in the most hopeless situations. The film also has a beautiful dream-like quality that mixes in magical surrealism alongside the harsh reality. Particularly lyrical cinematography creates this effect, cleverly contrasting the gritty situation in the city with Fakhri's verdant paradise.
Along the way, we also get a remarkable education in Iran's history, starting with the British blockade that led to street protests and ultimately the collapse of the government. It's impossible to watch this without seeing the parallels in today's Middle East, not to mention of course the fact that what's happening there today is directly related to Europe's actions so many decades ago. But this issue isn't dwelt on at all; writer-director Neshat keeps the film personal and evocative.
The main issue here is Iran's gender divide, which also has modern-day parallels, as these women grapple with their lives in a society that is slanted completely in favour of men. Scenes constantly take our breath away with their sheer audacity and honesty (this film could never have actually been made in Iran). And the film's lingering impression is of the idyllic nature of the women's orchard in contrast with the violent, controlling world outside that the men have made for themselves.
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