Shot secretly without government permits, “The Orion,” a daring, independently funded production from multihyphenate Zamani Esmati, initially resembles “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” but ultimately heads in a different direction, revealing more about the second-class position of women in Iranian society. Taking on the taboo of sex outside marriage, the tension-filled drama follows the aftermath of an affair between a student from a traditional family and a caddish astronomy professor. Unable to screen domestically, DV-lensed pic, a world preem at Karlovy Vary, should get further exposure abroad through fests.
In the ancient southern city of Yazd, arrogant Ali (Mehrdad Sheykhi) engages an unscrupulous physician (Mohammad Reza Farzad) to perform a hymen restoration on his anxious former lover, Elham (Nasim Kiani), but a police raid interrupts the proceedings. From the beginning, viewers are kept a bit off-balance as the reasons for Elham’s distress are only gradually revealed, more through off-camera conversations than through conventional exposition. Lensed mostly in claustrophobic interiors with the characters framed in tight closeups, pic boasts striking camerawork and sophisticated sound design that emphasize the atmosphere of oppression and fear; thesping is convincing.