Cohen recently wrote in The
New York Times: "Neda is already another name for the
anger smoldering here, whose expression, in my experience, has
been bravest, deepest and most vivid among women. She could
become Iran's Marianne."
we think, to rewatch Gabbeh in solidarity. This time
around, women and their repression in Iran (the smoldering fury)
are a reckoning force, perhaps the straw that will break this
camel's back. They are fighting for themselves, for their
future, to make up for their past.
Makhmalbaf, the celebrated Iranian filmmaker, critical of the
fundamentalist regime, had to get around the censors.
Commentary was subtle, hidden, metaphorical. Gabbeh
(1996) is poetic, dreamy, unabashedly lush. What can be read
as a political film is also startlingly beautiful, a visual feast
that is also an allegory.
Makhmalbaf himself has had some sort of a conversion (in his
adolescence he had been indoctrinated by a religious grandmother
and viewed cinema as profane). He later said: "When I
first saw Wings of Desire, I wished that my grandmother
were still alive so that I could show her that not all movies take
you to hell,…(T)here are some that can take you to Paradise--. .
. the Paradise within life."
Gabbeh, he has created a Paradise of color, a reproach to
the regime with a thousand hues. After the Revolution in
1979, women in Iran were told what to wear, had to cover their
hair (after years of sartorial freedom under the Shah, who
confined his autocratic ways to other areas) and were restricted
to sad, dark colors - blacks, grays, deep browns. Makhmalbaf takes
the colors of the gabbeh, dyes with wildflowers, of nature
itself, and flings them up into the blue of sky joyously, in
condemnation as well as celebration.
gabbeh is the wool rug (colorful, many-hued,
naturally-dyed) woven by the women of sheep-herding nomadic
tribes. The movie begins with an old couple washing a gabbeh,
arguing and reminiscing. There is a story woven into the
rug. A young couple on a white horse. A beautiful woman,
called Gabbeh, (Shaghayeh Djodat ) with dark flashing eyes and
eyebrows black as the wings of a crow, appears -- the old woman
when she was younger, the woman from the rug. She tells them
a story of longing, of the mysterious suitor on a horse, of the
clan, of life and death, of a father who will not let her marry
her suitor, of love deferred, but only for a while…perhaps this
love is emblematic of a freedom that would eventually
arrive. Poetic, lyrical, visually sublime, Gabbeh is
also in many ways a documentary about nomadic life and about
storytelling in Arabian Nights fashion.
yearning a metaphor for the longing for freedom, a
commentary on the role of women in Iran….all
by Makhmalbaf into one of the most beautiful movies we have ever