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The flower and the conqueror

Barhran Beyzaei's Killing Rabids

By Mani Farhoomand
January 16, 2003
The Iranian

Bahram Beyzaei has never made it easy for us. Us being the movie buffs and other members of the film world's chattering class. We usually take no time to praise his craft and his imagination but sometimes find ourselves defending films we don't really like or try to understand.

Us being viewers. We view his work to identify with, look for emotions to feel, stories to follow. But Beyzaei's films thwart all such expectations, or at least he subjects them to such sophisticated symbolism that we begin to ask ourselves are we stupid for wanting to feel that way?

Killing Rabids (Sag Koshi) is Bahram Beyzaei's first film in more than 10 years. He is perhaps the mot stylish and technical director of all Iranian directors. But to many movie critics and movie buffs outside Iran, Beyzaei is largely unknown. His only breakthrough at the international scene has been Bashu, the Little Stranger.

Bashu, like other Beyzaei films, was cut into pieces by the Islamic Republic' censorship before it got permission for release, the reason being movie's anti-war theme. As matter of fact, not a single movie of the director has made it to the screens with ease.

Beyzaei's artistic challenges to both the Shah's and Islamic Republic's corrupt eras, as well as the fact that he was born in a Bahai family, has made him an easy target for both the Shahollahis and Hezbollahis alike.

Killing Rabids
, his latest and perhaps best movie so far, was no exception. The movie was held for two years by both the censorship board, and later the producer, before it got permission to screen. The film broke all the records at the Iranian box-office last year proving that Iranian audiences do crave sophisticated movies with subtle messages.

The movie begins with the introduction of the main character, a female Iranian writer called Golrokh Kamali, who has recently left her husband because of his alleged affair with a secretary who works in his office.

After a period of self-imposed exile, Golrokh returns to Tehran in the midst of Iran-Iraq war only to find her husband bankrupt and thrown in jail for writing bad checks. Golrokh, believing that her husband's partner has taken all the company's money and gone abroad, accepts to pay the creditor (for 1/6 of the value of the bad checks).

But it isn't that easy. In order to clear her husband of all trouble, she bears all kinds of assaults: insult, beating, and rape. And what does she get in return? Further betrayal...

Killing Rabids approaches the corrupt elements today's Iran through a simple story mixed with a great deal of political symbolism. Golrokh, which means "Flower (beautiful) Face", is the innocent savoir of her husband, Nasser Moasser ("Current Victor") only to find he he is a criminal by nature and therefore not reformable.

Throughout the film, the militarism of Iran's contemporary society is shoved in our face by surreal shots of Basijis marching everywhere, from the halls of the airport to the streets of Tehran. We also see Basijis stopping and interrogating every single person passing by, except Nasser Moasser who walks amongst them with no fear of being stopped.

There is also a clever shot of Golrokh looking at walls along the street as a government official erases revolutionary slogans on them, one being, "We shall fight until victory".

At the end of the movie, Nasser Moasser's criminal partner returns from exile with shadowy men whose faces we can't see, while Golrokh walks away with dignity repeating, "It's time to kill the rabids".

Despite its length and dark subject, Killing Rabids is very enjoyable -- that is if you are willing to watch it at least twice to better understand the political context.

©Copyright 2003, The Iranian

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