Director inspired by Beckett

The first question to come to mind when interviewing the 33-year-old Iranian director Ali Reza Amini concerned the impressive number of shorts he made before shooting his first feature-length film: We counted 13 in the brief filmography outlined in the Thessaloniki International Film Festival’s program. «There’s been a mistake,» he interjected. «It’s 25, done over two years.» Amini belongs to the third generation of modern Iranian filmmakers. He competed in the festival’s International Competition with his second feature «Tiny Snowflakes,» which earned him the Artistic Achievement Award. The film was was shot under harsh conditions in an abandoned mine located in a small mountain hamlet. The main characters are two guards who survive completely cut off from society. Their solitude is ruthless, the landscape interminably the same, exhaustingly bare, like the snow. Their only company is the silhouette of a woman they see walking along a distant path. The guards wait, while time ticks slowly past. This is the Iranian version of «Waiting for Godot» – a minimalist art-house film that examines solitude, death and innocence. Amini poetically renders the feel of endless anticipation, with the only object in sight the woman’s figure. The same theme runs through his first feature film, «Letters in the Wind,» which, though banned in his own country, established him as a new force in Iranian cinema. Do you find shorts a necessary apprenticeship for new directors? I used to consider, and still do, my work as being based on experience. I used this method in order to allow me to enrich my own world of cinema. This is how I got the opportunity to make my first feature film. However, my primary activities are centered on the theater. Did you isolate your characters so as to observe them without interruption? Indeed. They were very different characters and I wanted to bring them closer to one another. One is more open, the other is not. The girl acts as a catalyst for both. Your «Godot» therefore appears in the form of the girl. Each of the main characters experiences the anticipation differently. For one it’s erotic, for the other it’s sexual. What moves you most in Beckett? I find that the atmosphere in Beckett’s work is very close to that of postwar Iran – in its loneliness, the search for a means to end the loneliness, the absurdity. Which of these elements is most dominant in Iran today? A sense of the absurd really dominated the postwar period in Iran. Then there was anticipation and now we have reached the point where we no longer just tolerate the solitude or the anticipation. We are becoming active. We are beginning to realize that no one is going to help us out of the solitude except ourselves. This is what makes my approach different to that of Beckett’s work. In the play, the characters talk, but they do not act. In Iran today, they talk and act.