You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cannes Film Review: ‘A Man of Integrity’

Iranian Director Mohammad Rasoulof once again explores the means by which an authoritarian regime succeeds in silencing independent voices.

Mohammad Rasoulof
Reza Akhlaghirad, Soudabeh Beizaee, Nasim Adabi, Misagh Zare Zeinab, Shabani Zhila Shahi  

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6776462/

In his sixth feature, clandestinely shot in the north of the country, Iranian helmer-writer Mohammad Rasoulof (“The Twilight,” “Iron Island,” “Manuscripts Don’t Burn”) returns to the theme that underlies all of his work: the means by which an authoritarian regime succeeds in silencing independent voices. “A Man of Integrity” is a tense, enraging drama about corruption and injustice, set in a small village. The essence of the plot — “in this country you’re either the oppressed or the oppressor” — provides a scathing critique of contemporary Iranian society. Although the film will be banned in its home nation, fests and niche arthouse distributors in most territories will welcome this brave, underground production for the way it manages to resonate on both specific and universal levels.

Why brave? For one thing, Rasoulof continues to work with a not-yet-executed prison sentence hanging over his head. And while underground productions take place in Iran, they are not strictly legal. Moreover, it’s the rare filmmaker who is capable of viewing and critiquing his society through an ethical and moral lens in a rigorous way. While his better-known compatriot Asghar Farad touches on similar themes, Farhadi’s critiques are more tied to the behavior of his characters, whereas Rasoulof analyzes and calls out the systems that control them.

Here, Rasoulof’s fine screenplay resembles a classic tragedy as he examines what defines a human being in a society that has lost its moral center. His eponymous protagonist is Reza (Reza Akhlaghirad), whose stubborn desire for justice makes him something of an Iranian Michael Kohlhaas; a man who will try to fight legally until the end to achieve justice. He’s a former Tehrani who was expelled from a teachers’ college for protesting the bad food served to workers in a factory, so he moved north to the countryside, trying to make a life in which he would be neither oppressor nor oppressed. Unfortunately, the dusty burg in which he chose to settle and establish a goldfish farm is a company town, where a mysterious and powerful corporate entity calls the shots — and has designs on his property. In certain ways, the atmosphere of threat is not far removed from that of a classic Western, but while law and order is eventually restored in American oaters, that’s not the case here.

Rasoulof makes Reza’s uncompromising nature explicit from the beginning. He’s a man who prefers to pay penalties for late payments on bank loans rather than greasing the wheels to obtain an extension. His wife Hadis (Soudabeh Beizaee), the head teacher at the local high school, both admires and despairs of his hard-headedness. But sadly for Reza, he’s living in a place where there’s no true rule of law. His neighbors are in thrall to the company’s desires and refuse to stick their necks out for him in his quest for justice and accountability since social pressure — or something worse — punishes those who don’t adopt the prevailing social values.

Reza’s battle with the company is epitomized by his ongoing struggle with its local enforcer, Abbas (Misagh Zare Zeinab). Small-town evil personified, Abbas killed his own young daughter and managed to pin the blame on someone else. When he attacks Reza, it’s the latter that ends up in jail. And when Abbas obtains a false doctor certificate for a broken arm, it’s the financially strapped Reza who is ordered to pay compensation.

As the disasters that befall Reza multiply, Rasoulof finds visual equivalents that underscore the character’s mentality. Numerous shower scenes in which Reza scrubs away at himself stress how dirtied he feels by the dishonesty that surrounds him. And his lonely road is perfectly epitomized by a scene in which Reza is headed in the direction of his beautiful two-story home and encounters an ominous phalanx of motorcycles speeding toward him.

As the attractive central couple, Akhlaghirad and Beizaee evince a strong chemistry. Rasoulof underlines their physical attraction by implying several sex scenes, something that’s so rare in his work that it seems almost shocking.

Working with his longtime crew and ace DP Ashkan Ashkani, the director takes advantage of the gray light of winter and numerous night scenes to underscore the oppressive atmosphere in which his characters exist.

Cannes Film Review: 'A Man of Integrity'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 19, 2017. Running time: 118 MIN. (Original title: ‘Lerd’)

Production: (Iran) A Mohammad Rasoulof production. (International sales: The Match Factory, Cologne). Producer: Rasoulof. Co-producers: Kaveh Farnam, Rozita Hendijanian, Michal Krecek.

Crew: Director, writer: Mohammad Rasoulof. Camera (color, HD, widescreen): Ashkan Ashkani. Editors: Mohammadreza Muini, Meysam Muini.

With: Reza Akhlaghirad, Soudabeh Beizaee, Nasim Adabi, Misagh Zare Zeinab, Shabani Zhila Shahi  

More Film

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content