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GABBEH

 
 

LOVE IS COLOR!

   

 

  

 

Roger 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."

Time, 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. 

Mohsen 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.

Interestingly, 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."

In 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.

A 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.  

Gabbeh's yearning  a metaphor for the longing for freedom, a commentary on the role of women in Iran….all transformed by Makhmalbaf into one of the most beautiful movies we have ever seen.

 

See: Gabbeh


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