In Mohsen Makhmalbaf's "Scream of the Ants," an couple spends their honeymoon traveling through India while theorizing about God. Their journey through picturesque poverty unfolds in a series of tableaux where local color is juxtaposed with the duo's ludicrous pronouncements. Even hardcore Makhmalbaf buffs may run screaming.

In Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s latest off-putting exercise in pretentious provocation, “Scream of the Ants,” a well-to-do Iranian couple spends their honeymoon traveling through India while theorizing about God. Their journey through picturesque poverty unfolds in a series of tableaux where artfully composed local color is juxtaposed with the duo’s ludicrous pronouncements: The husband drunkenly debates metaphysics with the statue of a bull god, as the wife imagines a holocaust of dying ants screaming under her feet. If irony there be, it remains inscrutably hidden among the idiocies. Even hardcore Makhmalbaf buffs may run screaming.

The newlyweds argue constantly: He (Mahmoud Chokrollahi) is an atheist consumed by doubt, while she (Mahnour Shadzi) is a believer in search of answers. They search the countryside for a guru called the “perfect man,” who fobs them off with a message in invisible ink. Weird foreground/background oppositions, with the wife ritualistically dunking herself in the Ganges while naked old men cavort around her, fail to enlighten.

Scream of the Ants

India - France

Production

A Wild Bunch presentation of a Makhmalbaf Film House production. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced, directed, written, edited by Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

Crew

Camera (color), Bakhshor; music, Craig Pruess. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Sept. 2, 2006. Farsi, English, Hindi, French dialogue. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Mahmoud Chokrollahi, Mahnour Shadzi, Karl Maass, Tenzin Choegyal, Savitha Iyer, Barath K.S.

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