Review: ‘The River’s End’

It's all in the narrator's mind, and words, in "The River's End," an intensely artistic art film by veteran Behrooz Afkhami. The visuals silently illustrate the first-person voice-over of a young man haunted by the memory of his dead father. As the voice drones on reading, only the most insomniac viewers will stay the course until the poetic finale.

It’s all in the narrator’s mind, and words, in “The River’s End,” an intensely artistic art film by veteran Behrooz Afkhami (“The Bride”). The visuals silently illustrate the first-person voice-over of a troubled young man haunted by the memory of his dead father, who lets this ghost of the past take over his life. As the voice drones on reading the novel by Jafar Modaress Sadeghi, only the most insomniac viewers will stay the course until the poetic finale. Though commendable in its way, film doesn’t look like it has much firepower outside Farsi language markets.

The nameless narrator, who isn’t even glimpsed onscreen until pic’s last half, has exchanged his native Isfahan for bachelor digs in Tehran, where he lives with two friends. He is apparently writing a novel while he remembers his childhood and youth. His memories center on the river Zayandehrood, which flows through Isfahan and mysteriously ends in a swampy marshland. This image, returned to again and again, is built up into a symbol of death.

The real-life events that occur, like the narrator’s marrying his cousin on a whim and letting her run his father’s tailor shop, are incidental to his gloomy reflections on the river. The narrator takes on the demonic half-mad flavor of a Dostoevsky character and isn’t very sympathetic, considering he never consummates his marriage to the nice cousin, dumps her on another whim, and is exclusively concerned with himself.

Though auds won’t be able to identify with him, they are drawn into his world of imaginings, beautifully lensed by cinematographer Mohammad Aladpoush. The sights of ancient Isfahan, with its mysterious archways and towers, is skillfully used, while the river furnishes a deep metaphor and a scary end of the narrator’s journey.

The River's End

Directors Fortnight / Iran

Production

A Picture World release (in Iran) of an Ali Moallem production. (International sales: Farabi Cinema Foundation, Tehran.) Produced by Ali Moallem. Directed, written by Behrooz Afkhami, based on a novel by Jafar Modaress Sadeghi.

Crew

Camera (color), Mohammad Aladpoush; editor, Afkhami; music, Keyvan Honarmand; production designer, Nahid Tolou; sound (Dolby Digital), Parviz Abnar. Reviewed at the Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnightriver rev), May 19, 2004. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Ezzat Entezami, Bahram Radan, Bahareh Rahnanam, Soroush Sehhat, Arash Majidi, Sasan Parsi.
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