Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

If a festival film boasts the country of origin as Iran, the chances are you're going to have to wade through a large layer of allegory to hunt down the meaning. This is, presumably, because the filmmakers are trying to make a point about their country while avoiding locking horns with the Iranian Government - director Jafar Panahi's ongoing house arrest is a cautionary tale of what happens if they don't. Taboor is no exception, transporting us into the near-future and to a day in the life of a solitary soul living on the outskirts of Tehran.

We meet the unnamed protagonist (Mohamad Rabbanipour) as he gets ready to face his day, waking up in a foil-lined room and stepping into a full foil body suit before putting on his clothes. He's trying to protect himself, of course, although we don't immediately find out against what. In fact, the first 20 or so minutes of this film, showing him heading to work and getting stuck in a lift in slow, silent locked-off shot after shot are something of an endurance test. As we watch a piece of meat sizzle on a griddle, the idea of watching paint dry instead starts to become attractive. If, however, you persevere - and at the screening I attended many did not - the film finds its voice at about the same moment as we hear someone speak for the first time.

Our man, you see is dying on the inside thanks to the effect of invisible forces, which as a metaphor for the state of a nation is pretty effective. His regular day involves death, subservience, random acts of violence and sisyphean tasks. In a key sequence, we see him in a simulator ride, acting perhaps not only to remind us of a simulation of a nation going through the motions but also as an indication of the fiction of America that is projected to the rest of the world.

The pace of the first part of Vahid Vakilifar's second feature is a problem - several early scenes feel extraneous or padded out to extend the runtime, while his obsessional long takes of Escher-style staircases become laboured. He also has a love of mirror images and long corridors, the latter of which affords him one of the most memorable shots in the film. Vakilifar's film may not be in the same league or offer the depth of allegory as Mohammad Rasoulof's The White Meadows or Mani Haghighi's Modest Reception but it lingers in the mind nonetheless.

Reviewed on: 19 Apr 2013
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In a near-future Iran, a man goes about his solitary life.

Director: Vahid Vakilifar

Starring: Mohammad Rabbanipour

Year: 2012

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Iran


Tribeca 2013
EIFF 2013

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