Review: The Devil Doesn’t Exist – Film Review

The devil does not exist

Review The Devil Doesnt Exist Film ReviewIran: 2020
Original title: Sheytan vojud nadarad
Director: Mohammad Rasoulof
Screenplay: Mohammad Rasoulof
Performers: Ehsan Mirhosseini, Shaghayegh Shourian, Kaveh Ahangar
Distribution: Pyramide Distribution
Duration: 2h32
Genre: Drama
Release date: December 1, 2021

It was after studying sociology and then film editing that Mohammad Rasoulof began a career as a director. It was in 2002, at the age of 30, that he made his first feature film, Gagooman. Very quickly, troubles with Iranian censorship began despite the rather metaphorical character of his films, which resulted in prison sentences for acts and propaganda hostile to the Islamic Republic of Iran and bans on leaving the territory. Far from silencing him, this led him to be more and more explicit in his denunciation, via his films, of the political regime of his country: since the metaphorical nature of his films did not prevent condemnations, why not squarely show reality ?! Despite the convictions, despite the confiscation of his passport, despite the prohibitions, he succeeded in making films which find excellent reception in the biggest festivals of the planet, the most important rewards being the price of the staging of the selection “Un Certain Regard” for Bye in 2011, and the “Un Certain Regard” prize for A man of integrity in 2017. However, the most prestigious award is in 2020, with The devil does not exist, which Mohammad Rasoulof obtained: the Golden Bear of the Berlinade, the equivalent of the Palme d’Or at the Berlin International Film Festival. A reward that the director was unable to receive in person, not having the possibility of leaving his country. It is to his daughter Baran, also an actress in this film, that the award was presented.

Synopsis : Iran, nowadays. Heshmat is an exemplary husband and father but no one knows where he goes every morning. Pouya, a young conscript, cannot bring himself to kill a man as he is ordered to do. Javad, who has come to ask his beloved in marriage, is suddenly trapped in a difficult dilemma. Bharam, a doctor banned from practicing, has finally decided to reveal to his niece the secret of a lifetime. These four stories are inexorably linked. In a despotic regime where the death penalty still exists, men and women fight to assert their freedom.

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A division into 4 episodes

Barely more than a month after the excellent Forgiveness of Maryam moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha, here we areIran another movie, The devil does not exist, just as excellent, also on the subject of the death penalty, still practiced on a large scale in this country. Whereas in Forgiveness, we were faced with the consequences of the recognition of a miscarriage of justice, with the meeting for the spectators of the wife of an innocent who was executed and the judge who had condemned him, Mohammad Rasoulof, the director of The devil does not exist, puts us alongside those responsible for carrying out the sentence, whether they are professionals or young men in the army, with the aim of dealing with individual responsibility in a dictatorship. In order to circumvent the censorship that intervenes at the level of the scenario, before the shooting of a film, Rasoulof has chosen to divide his film into 4 episodes, each of them, presented each time under a different name than his own, similar to a short film of about forty minutes. Used to cunning with censorship, he knew very well that censorship is less picky on short films than on feature films. In addition, this choice allowed him to deal with a greater number of different cases, from the executioner by profession, otherwise a good husband, a good father, a good neighbor, to the father of a family who had chosen to offer his daughter a life. nicer than the one he could give her because of the consequences of a courageous but difficult choice he made when he was 20 years old, going through the rebellion of a young conscript and the disastrous consequences of election of another conscript to volunteer for execution for the sole purpose of obtaining permission. Alongside these men, these potential executioners who obey or refuse, there are women, wives, fiancees, girls, of whom Rasoulof shows the importance they can have in many decisions despite the state of inferiority in which the Iranian state and religion want to confine them.

Review The Devil Doesnt Exist Film Review

To obey ? Refuse ?

What can we do, what should we do when an order is given to us to commit an action incompatible with our personal morals? Can our morality be opposed to a hierarchical superior? To the law ? To a state, to its political regime? On the contrary, can we coldly obey any order, without qualms? Those who obey, those who refuse !! By looking at 4 different cases, Rasoulof has chosen to stage a man who has chosen to embrace the profession of executioner and who does not ask himself a question; a young man who, whatever the risks involved, refuses to perform an action that he disapproves of; another young man, who, under identical circumstances, volunteered to perform this same type of action in an attempt to obtain permission to visit his bride (after all, if not not he who participates in the execution, another will!); a man, finally, who feels the end approaching, a man who, too, had taken a courageous decision long before and who, all the rest of his life, paid the consequences.

In doing so, Mohammad Rasoulof contributes to enriching the philosophical question posed in 1961 by Hannah arendt following his journalistic coverage of the trial Eichmann To Jerusalem : what responsibility do the executioners have in a totalitarian regime? This is not surprising, the director often citing this philosopher in his remarks, he for whom not being part of the system is of great importance, he who, like Bahram, the character of the last episode, took courageous decisions which consisted in making known to the whole world the true nature of the Iranian regime and which paid the consequences.

1637998440 913 Review The Devil Doesnt Exist Film ReviewImportant, poetic and visually stunning

The devil does not exist could only be an important film because of what it tells us about theIran, of what he tells us about human nature in what it can be beautiful and in what it can have mediocre. That would already be a lot! It is good, however, to insist on the fact that it is also a film in which poetry has its place, a film whose beauty of the images and the quality of the framing can only enchant those for whom aesthetics are important in cinema.

For Mohammad Rasoulof, building a casting is a real headache: first of all, it refuses to hire comedians or actresses compromised with the regime. Then there is his name which can represent a brake for an artist: does the rest of his career not risk suffering from participation in one of his films? For The devil does not exist, at the very beginning, the actors chosen did not know the name of the director. In fact, few gave up the role when that name was leaked to them. We find Baran Rasoulof, the director’s own daughter, in the last episode. As for the presence of Rasoulof on the set, it was not always possible because of the ban on filming that hit him, for example during filming at the airport, and he had to give very precise instructions to the technical team. An anecdote it seems authentic: during one of these episodes, Rasoulof had chosen to mingle with the technical team incognito. A policeman recognized him and did not denounce him!

1637998440 263 Review The Devil Doesnt Exist Film ReviewConclusion

At the same time poetic, visually magnificent, and, above all, particularly eloquent in its denunciation of the death penalty and the traumas it causes, in the families of the victims of course, but also in the executioners and their entourage, The devil does not exist adds a major stone to the long list of great Iranian films.

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Review: The Devil Doesn’t Exist – Film Review