Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Khaneh siah ast / The House Is Black

Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967), poet and film-maker.

Making The House Is Black. Forough Farrokhzad is the third from left, standing in the middle, her hands behind her back, behind the camera crew.

خانه سیاه است / La Maison est noire / Das Haus ist schwarz / [La casa è nera]. IR 1962. D: Forough Farrokhzad. SC: Forough Farrokhzad. Cinematography: Soleiman Minassian. ED: Forough Farrokhzad. C: Forough Farrokhzad (voce narrante), Ebrahim Golestan (voce narrante). With: Hossein Mansouri. PC: Golestan Film Studio. 35 mm. 21 min
    The narration: from the Old Testament, the Quran, and poems by Forough Farrokhzad
    Farsi version with French subtitles
    Print from CNC – Archives françaises du film
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Golestan Film Studio, between poetry and politics
    Introduce Ehsan Khoshbakht
    Cinema Lumiere – Sala Scorsese, 28 June 2016

Chris Marker (quoted in the Bologna catalogue): "February 13, [1967] at 4:30 pm, Forough Farrokhzad died in a car accident in Tehran. She was one of the greatest contemporary Persian poets, and she was also a filmmaker. She had directed The House Is Black… Grand Prix at Oberhausen, and beyond that practically unknown in Europe, and the film is a masterpiece. She was 33… equally made of magic and energy, she was the Queen of Sheba described by Stendhal. For her first film, she went straight to the most unwatchable: leprosy, lepers. And if was needed the gaze of a woman, if is always needed the look of a woman to establish the right distance with suffering and hideousness, without complacency and self-pity, her gaze still transformed her subject, and by bypassing the abominable trap of the symbol, succeed in binding, besides the truth, this leprosy to all the leprosies of the world. So that The House Is Black is also the Land Without Bread of Iran, and the day that French distributors will admit that one can be Persian, we shall notice that Forough Farrokhzad had given more in one movie than lots of people with easier names to remember." – Chris Marker, “Cinéma 67”, n. 117.

AA: Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967) was an Iranian poet who created poems of five volumes' worth during her brief life. In Finnish her poems have been translated by Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila in Vain ääni jää [Only the Sound Remains], a collection of Iranian poetry. The title of Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us is taken from a poem by Farrokhzad.

In 1958 Farrokhzad met the writer and film-maker Ebrahim Golestan, and they became partners, although Golestan was married. She participated in the Golestan film productions and studied film-making in Britain.

In 1962 Farrokhzad moved to Tabriz where the leper colony Behkadeh Raji functioned as a self-supporting, independent village. During the 12 days of filming of The House Is Black Farrokhzad was attracted to a child of a couple affected with leprosy and later adopted the child, Hossein Mansouri.

The Golestan Film Studio launched the Iranian New Wave, Farrokhzad contributed from the start as an editor, and The House Is Black was one of its first films. The House Is Black was ranked 19th on the Critics' 50 Best Documentaries of All Time poll in Sight & Sound in 2014.

There is little to add to Chris Marker's words above. When a leprosy patient looks at herself in the mirror it is an assault on the cult of external beauty in the cinema. This is a film about a terrible illness, disfiguring skin and body, causing invalidization and blindness. Farrokhzad's approach is simultaneously medically unflinching and humanistically poetic. The commentary mixes fact (leprosy is contagious, leprosy can be cured), religion (the Psalms: "I sing thy name, Eternal One", "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove"), and Farrokhzad's own poems.

An association I have while thinking about The House Is Black is Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Both question what we take for granted in the cinema. The House Is Black is a challenge to our habit of looking superficially.

No comments: