A perfectly realized, painterly portrayal of a widow’s life, “A Light in the Fog” is a singularly assured feature film bow that is as understated as the best of Iranian cinema. With this flawlessly designed and exquisitely photographed work, shorts filmmaker Panahbarkhoda Rezaee has created a genuine masterpiece. Concise running time will ease impatient auds along the film’s unhurried journey, but fest programmers will be rushing past each other to get to this slice of sublime cinema.
In terms of plot, Hossein Saberi’s script is absolutely minimalist. Widow Rana (Parivash Nazariyeh) lives in a rustic house with her aging, invalid father (Massoud Heshmat), who repairs items such as lanterns for the locals. In a rare dialogue exchange, her father suggests Rana consider marrying distant neighbor Rahmat (Behrouz Jalili), and consider she does, as she goes about her everyday tasks of checking fishing nets, lugging coal and caring for her aging dad in the remote, fog-laden mountains.
Helming is as precise as the Islamic call for prayer, and devoutly humanistic in execution. Every moment is beautifully composed, and the transitions from shot to shot are methodically linked, demonstrating Rezaee’s humble but superb command of cinema.
Most obvious touchstone is Alexander Sokurov’s “Mother and Son.” Rezaee shares the Russian director’s love of the long take, which gives ample time to savor the impressive cinematography of Ali Mohammad Ghasemi, whose images of nature recall the work of painters such as J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. A sequence (in one long take, natch) in which Rana waits for a bus at a fogged-in road, as headlights herald approaching cars and trucks, is simply magical to behold.
Complementing these images is the helmer’s fastidious audio track. Soundscape gently embellishes visuals with a myriad of details such as bicycle bells, distant trains and unobtrusive footfalls.
Perfs create the illusion of a documentary where life is all as it should be — imperfect, but not wanting. Each thesp exudes a quiet dignity that commands the attention, whether in closeup or long shot, for each of pic’s 75 minutes.