Sunday, February 20, 2011

Frontier Blues

Today we walked down to the Mall to see Frontier Blues, an Iranian film shown by the Freer Art Gallery as a part of its Iranian Film Festival. Babak Jalali directed and shot this film in northern Iran, near Turkmenistan, the flat, desperate land of his childhood. The absurdist comedy throws together a number of strange characters, each lost in his own dreams and struggles: a young man who eats only dried apricots and whose only companion is an unnamed donkey; his uncle who owns a barely-stocked clothing store; and a traditional Turkmen musician whose wife was stolen years ago by a man from Tehran in a green Mercedes Bendz, among others. There is precious little dialogue in the movie -- most of the comedic moments come when the characters are staring awkwardly at each other, or in the sparse absurdities that sprinkle their speech.

I mention the film here because it's an interesting example of a story relying heavily on place and with practically no plot. The flat, windy, poor land dominates the lives of these characters and seems to have a flattening effect on their dreams. I'm not sure that it was a great movie, but it was intriguing. I know that the three traditional focuses of stories are either plot, characters, or place, but I've had trouble thinking of a book that relies primarily on place. Frontier Blues seems to fit the bill.

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Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma