Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero”: one of the best films of 2021

Iranian filmmakers are hitting hard at the end of the year and spectators are not complaining. Fifteen days after the release on the screens of the admirable The devil does not exist by Mohammad Rasoulof, on the death penalty, it’s Asghar Farhadi’s turn to unveil his new fiction: A hero. This equally admirable film was awarded a Grand Jury Prize at the last Cannes Film Festival, the most important local award after the Palme d’Or.

After the international triumph of A separation (Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2011, Oscar for best foreign film and nearly a million spectators conquered in France), Asghar Farhadi, taking advantage of his notoriety, shot several films outside his country with consecrated actors: The past, in France, with Tahar Rahim and Bérénice Bejo, Everybody Knows, in Spain, with Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem. The filmmaker finds Iran with A hero, a film where ambiguity reigns supreme and whose title should not be taken literally.

Variable geometry probity

The filmmaker portrays Rahim, an ordinary man languishing in prison for having contracted debts. This “hero” who has nothing heroic intends to take advantage of a permission to reimburse part of the amount requested and thus escape his sad fate. A bag full of gold coins opportunely “found” by his companion will allow him, he thinks, to achieve his ends. But Rahim, with his mysterious smile, finally prefers to declare to the police that he accidentally found said bag and thus demonstrate his irreproachable honesty.

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A priori winning bet: now considered a model prisoner by his prison which intends to publicize his case, supported by an influential charity and become a quasi-star on social networks, Rahim (played by an exceptional actor: Amir Jadidi) seems promised to a favorable destiny. Seems only …

Relative justice

Lying, manipulation, arrangements with probity, interchangeable reputations on social networks… Around these universal themes that he inscribes in the context of today’s Iran, Asghar Farhadi also signs an incisive moral fable inspired in its script of diabolical precision than in its constantly inventive staging.

During the last Cannes Film Festival, Asghar Farhadi, as often, was questioned by journalists on his political position vis-à-vis his native country, he who, unlike his compatriots Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi, does not attack head-on the regime in place and is not a victim of censorship. What does not prevent him in his films, and in the first place in A hero, to stage certain painful realities in his country, in particular with regard to the “relativity” of justice.

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When we tell the story of a family or a group, we cannot dissociate them from the society in which they live. Asghar Farhadi explained in Cannes, handling innuendo as usual. Either we engage in direct criticism, which some filmmakers do, or we examine things in a more subtle way. I would probably be criticized for being peremptory if I were more frontal. I prefer to practice in a nuanced way, and in my films I examine subjects that concern viewers in all countries.

And the filmmaker continues by talking about his career: “ I shot the first Iranian film about the execution of minors in 2004: “The children of Belle Ville“. We are still talking about this film. I am not sure that it would be the same if I had directed a flyer in pictures. In my films, I point out above all the contradictions of my characters. do not express with hysterics, but I try to arouse reflection in the viewer. I opt for awareness rather than denunciation: this is my choice as a filmmaker. I believe that by combating ignorance, we fight l injustice I think that in the face of dogmatism, one should not be dogmatic.

Complexity and morality

This rejection of dogmatism is not the enemy of critical gaze. Behind its appearance of moral fiction, A hero paints a harsh portrait of contemporary Iran. An Iran where, as elsewhere, the digital empire and social networks are wreaking havoc.

I neither praise nor criticize these networks said Farhadi in Cannes. The phenomenon, in Iran as elsewhere, concerns more and more people, especially young people. And I was interested in showing how they can sometimes literally contaminate an individual’s entire life. If the latter performs a virtuous act highlighted on the networks, he will have to try to the absurdity to conform to this image which therefore becomes an alienation. This obsession with perfection, which is of course an illusion, prevents the opportunity to fail and be imperfect, which is however necessary to evolve. In addition, the speed inherent in social networks prohibits complexity. A complexity which, in my opinion, is precisely the strength of cinema.

The limits of the pas de deux

This complexity gives all its value to the filmography of the director who frequently represents Iran at the Oscars, but who is not a henchman of power even if he chooses not to provoke the latter. An “art” of pas de deux which has its limits. Thus, the filmmaker declared in mid-November on … social networks that he did not wish to compete at any price for the next Hollywood ceremony with A hero.

At issue: the attacks, bullying and threats to which he is the object. First of all those orchestrated by the most intransigent representatives of the Iranian regime. “ For years I was silent, preferring to focus on my writing and films he wrote. However, this silence led some to believe that they could say anything about me, thinking that I would not respond. To be clear: I’ve had enough. How could anyone associate me with a government whose extremist media have had no trouble destroying, marginalizing and stigmatizing me over the years? »Asghar Farhadi at the Oscars or not? To be continued … In the meantime, it is urgent to discover A hero, one of the most beautiful films of the year 2021.


A hero, by Asghar Farhadi. Released on December 15th.

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Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero”: one of the best films of 2021