October 20, 2012 By Muhsin Parary

The Circumstance 2011: What is beyond the ancestral dichotomy?

Anything that is Iranian, either being itself or being included in the broader identity of ‘the oriental’ or ‘eastern’, in the scenario of cultural criticism, will always bring that same old dialogue on the dichotomy of west and east, or liberty and religion. In addition, we are in such a political situation that considering something Iranian for an analysis can unconsciously imply an indication of agreement or disagreement with the international interference in Iran’s nuclear policy.

The Circumstance, the North American release, Iranian movie penned and directed by Maryam Keshavarz, makes no difference to the disposition of its reviewer. Some reviewers argue that it is a sheer reductionism to class Circumstance as ‘response to the authoritarian state’, claiming that the movie is a universal comment on the politics of gender and sexuality. But, in contrast to other ‘underworld’ movies by the ‘exilic’ directors of the nation (namely, Behman Gobadi and his ‘nobody knows about Persian cats’),

The Circumstance is rather directly fighting with the notions of religious authority and even with the title ‘(Islamic) revolution’. In rebellion to the censorship laws of the nation, Circumstance contains lot of erotic frames which, often,tragically submerges the human right appeal of the whole movie. The story line of dichotomy This movie basically deals with the days before Atefah’s, an Iranian teenager, flee to Dubai from the regime, letting us know what made her do so. “A wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager’s growing sexual rebellion and her brother’s dangerous obsession” is the brief synopsis of the movie, we can find on IMDB.

May be the contrast of the teenager daughter, Atefah, and her brother, who has got a ‘dangerous obsession’, Mehran has to be paid more attention, seeing the movie. Both are interested in one person, Shireen, Atefa’s classmate, sexually, but much affectionately. Atefah and Shireen are not just sexually obsessed to each, but also in an urge for freedom to pursue their career in the profession of music. It has been there in their usual conversation that they will have to flee to Dubai to pursue a career in music and have a life together, as lesbians. Atefah and Shireen used to involve in ‘underworld’ activities of Tehran where they find pubs, drinking, smoking, dancing and making love. In these underworld hangouts they used to meet certain friends, with who they share the idea of a cultural rebellion in the regime, releasing the dubbed version of movies like Milk and Sex and the City.

In a one wild night in the ‘underworld’, Shireen is presented more wild and crazy, shouting ‘fuck the mothers of all mullahs who shit all over the country’, fixing her drink ‘To Hollywood’. But in the other hand, Mehran, after his return from a rehab, replaced his keen obsession in classical music with sort of a religious pursuit, adopting the patriarchal notions of the existing religious system in the regime. But, since the acquaintance with Shireen, with who his sister has a sexual obsession, he has been in pursuit of her love and wished for a life together. With the help of his older experience, getting associated to the religious police of the city, Mehran manages to seize certain ‘immoral’, underworld hangouts of the city. Subsequently, Atefah and Shireen get arrested by the police during their drive, smoking and listening to rock music, back from their usual hangouts, in the underworld. While Mehran manages to get Shireen’s record clean, his father takes Atefah on a bail. Hence, Shireen along with her uncle gets obliged to marry Mehran, which makes Atefah’s dreams and aspiration under mess. The more depressed one seems to be involving in more illegitimate activities.

After seeing her once ‘liberal’ and ‘secular’ father becoming religious, offering prayer with Mehran, Atefah’s depression intensifies. Hence, failing to overcome Mehran’s hegemony all over the family, who even set up security cameras inside the home, Atefah runs away to Dubai, for a more free living, but leaving her love helplessly in Iran. Thus the movie narrates a young Iranian lady’s pursuit of ‘liberty’ in a sort of melodramatic sequence. But, it should be admitted that the movie doesn’t bring out a concrete idealism, but simplistically leaves pictures of two contrasting extremities. It is also notable that the bourgeoisie parents, who are presented pro-revolution, are seen liberal but tolerant to the ‘religious’ and ‘asecular’. Maryam Keshavarz presents the ‘moderate liberal’ culture adopted by the parents as a natural phenomenon in contemporary Iran while ‘children of revolution’ are split to two extremes.

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