Review: ‘Another Morning’

An alienated young office worker whose wife has just died holds a mirror to contemporary Iranian society in the exasperatingly slow-moving "Another Morning," which for many viewers will never seem to dawn. The protag, who never utters a single word during the film, offers sophomore helmer Nasser Refaie a completely passive sounding board for the people and things around him. Selected filmgoers may be attracted by the rigorous, original style, which distantly echoes the everyman films of Bresson and Olmi, but script isn't droll or pungent enough to sustain interest in a film that is all wallpaper and no action.

An alienated young office worker whose wife has just died holds a mirror to contemporary Iranian society in the exasperatingly slow-moving “Another Morning,” which for many viewers will never seem to dawn. The protag, who never utters a single word during the film, offers sophomore helmer Nasser Refaie (“The Exam”) a completely passive sounding board for the people and things around him. Selected filmgoers may be attracted by the rigorous, original style, which distantly echoes the everyman films of Bresson and Olmi, but script isn’t droll or pungent enough to sustain interest in a film that is all wallpaper and no action.

Young widower Kamali (Majid Jalilian) is grief-stricken at his wife’s untimely death. A low-ranking paper pusher in a big office, he struggles to hide his despondency from his co-workers.

His noisily grieving relatives, who practically camp out at the cemetery, give him no time for private mourning. Yet, gradually, his interest in life returns, and with it a hunger for change. Told with great economy, this simple story becomes the canvas for painting scenes of everyday life, many of which reveal the underbelly of Iranian society. Adult videos are sold on the street, middle-aged hookers ply their trade, radical newspapers are shut down, plainclothes police chase young demonstrators, respectable men cheat on their wives or collapse on the street from drug abuse. Instead of dramatizing these things as other filmmakers have done, Refaie deliberately chooses to toss them in as asides to Kamali’s humdrum existence. With his sad, hangdog face and surprising ability to turn on emotion when least expected, Jalilian is perfectly cast as the passive observer whom life passes by. He entertains false hopes about getting promoted, winning the lottery and getting closer to a young woman in the office.

Deprived of speech by the script, he uses the tricks of silent cinema to communicate. Nowhere is he more affecting than when he enviously stares at a family enjoying a meal in a fast-food joint.

Though on the tech side this is just about a one-man show, Refaie finds a kindred spirit in cinematographer Farzad Jodat and his preference for fixed-camera work.

Another Morning

Iran

Production

A Nasser Refaie Film Production Co. production. (International sales: Iranian Independents, Tehran.) Produced by Nasser Refaie. Directed and written by Nasser Refaie.

Crew

Camera (color), Farzad Jodat; editor, Refaie; production designer, Refaie; sound, Hossein Mahdavi, Refaie. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 9, 2006. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Majid Jalilian, Raya Nasiri, Nezam Manouchehri, Manouchehr Mobasser.
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