On the verge of the fall of cinema as an art medium, “The White Meadows” written, produced and directed by Mohamad Rasoulof from Iran is like resuscitating a dead body and bring it all to life. This fictional surreal, existential and philosophical film poetically probes into the superstitious beliefs and rituals of ordinary people of a few villages on the skirt of a salt lake in Iran. This metaphoric critic of superstitions and religious rigidity still existing at the dawn of the new millennium costs Rasoulof and his editor, Jafar Panahi sentence to 6 years in prison by the Islamic government of Iran, a year after the release of the film. Although a year later in 2011 their appeal concluded in the release of Panahi, but Rasoulof’s sentence was reduced to one year in prison for propaganda against the Islamic regime.
This masterpiece elegantly uncovers bare to the bones the still existing superstitions and religious rigidity at the cost of lives in a remote region of Iran that is an example of many such regions in the world. A perfect look-alike mélange of surrealistic, existentialistic, and poetic works of the masters of cinema such as Bunuel, Bergman, Antonioni and Fellini, Rasoulof stands alone pure and original in a novel piece of cinematic art. With its superb story design, beautiful and poetic cinematography by Ebrahim Ghafori and matched music score by Mohammad Reza Darvishi, the film is what the true believers of cinema as an art medium had been waiting for in a long time.
A Cinematic Rejuvenation:
The film opens in close up on an old man, Rahmat (Hassan Pourshirazi) cleaning a few small glass jars that we learn later to be used for collecting the tears of mourners. Rahmat after walking in a long white landscape of salt field (White Meadows) reaches to his boat docking by the salt lake and paddles for his destination to a village on the other side to collect the tears of the mourners of a recently deceased young woman. After hearing from the locals of the beauty, youth and premature death of the girl and collecting the tears of the mourners, the man loads the corpse on his boat and departs to the other side of the lake to bury her as that salt island has no cemetery.
Midway on the lake, the man opens the sheet over the corpse to confirm the beauty of the girl, but jumps in a shock to see a young alive boy, Nasim (Younes Ghazali) under the sheath. Upset of the trick, he throws the boy in the water but later rescues him as the boy could not swim. Nasim explains that he has replaced himself with the corpse of the girl to get out of the village in the search of his father who had left them years ago. Rahmat finally agrees to take the boy along only if he acts as a mute and deaf, so others not to discover his means. The two arrive to the other side of the lake where in the first scene a blind man picking up the dead bodies of many black birds that have died for drinking the salty water of the lake.
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