Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Wasteland (2020) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Fittingly, for a film that uses a brick factory as a microcosm of Iranian society, Ahmad Bahrami's beautifully shot feature is an exercise of careful construction, its initial looping structure and smooth, repetitive camera movements, building a hypnotic rhythm that draws us in.
Lotfollah (Ali Bagheri) has worked at this brick factory in the middle of nowhere as man and boy. The plant's isolated setting means that the workers also live there in a tight community. The story is driven by an announcement by the factory boss (Farrokh Nemati) that economic pressures are forcing him to close, with Bahrami returning again and again to his speech, which expands further each time, in between break-out snapshots examining the back stories of workforce faces in the crowd.
Lotfollah is the factory fixer, acting as a go-between for the others, each of whom has their own agenda - from the couple desperate to marry despite parental disapproval to the Kurdish man whose sleeveless shirt enrages his Muslim co-workers. The segments unfold in the spirit of a chain-folktale, each featuring a snapshot of the people at work, with Lotfollah stepping in so each can have a meeting with the boss - Masud Amini Tirani's camera employing the same sweep from the window of his office, with workers below to his desk every time - and each featuring a post-meeting mealtime discussion showing family life.
Bahrami's approach is deceptively simple, drawing us in with its easy rhythms and repetitions as the more complex picture of emotions, workplace exploitation and community tensions begins to be revealed. The camera moves are finely calibrated, so that people or vehicles enter the frame in ways that 'meet' the lens en route, the precision and subtly shifting reiterations of the action recalling Bela Tarr - an influence also strongly felt in an opening scene of ice bouncing up and down in a horse's cart.
The story settles, snuggly, brick by brick into place at the same time as the weight of isolation builds on Lotfollah, despite his best efforts, with Bagheri offering a weary soulfulness, even when what remains of Lotfollah's hopefulness begins to fade. Bahrami takes his time, so that we see the tragedy of a good man running out of options take shape at a pace which means we feel every breath of it until the last.Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2021
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