The pre-metaphysics of Things through Iranian Cinema

May 31, 2009


It is all because of my fascination with perhaps arguable and no doubt problematic ideas of pre-metaphysical, non-cultural and a-human givenness of objects and things and of life stripped down to its minimum, that I suggest we watch some of the Iranian masterpieces, which i think presisely deal with the issues.

Here are some films to chose for our screening as well as the quotes from Hamid Dabashi’s seminal book on the Iranian cinema ‘Close Up’. let me know what you prefer cause I’ll be seeing those again in anyway 


Abbass Kiarostami: ‘Through the Olive Trees’ or ‘Close Up’ 

Kiarostami presents us with  a different kind of ‘morality’, a ‘countermorality’ emerges here that is entirely contingent on the reality of the event itself and not on abstract ethical imperatives.’ CU p. 55 Kiarostami’s cinema, from its very inception, is an aesthetics of the real, a countermetaphysics of the factual. It is here to filter the world and thus strip it of all cultures, narrativities, authorities, and ideologies.’ C.U P54

‘Close Up’


‘Through the Olive Trees’



 Rakhschan Bani-Etemad ‘Gilaneh’(2004)

If Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf’s cinema are two visual modes of rereading Iranian culture in order to tease out its virtuality and thus negotiate a creative emancipation from it, the cinema of Bani-Etemad is a visual assault on that culture’s Achilles’ heel, namely, its conception of femininity…Her work has a much wider spectrum of implications than the condition of Iranian women. What is at stake in her project is the constitution femininity as the weakest and most vulnerable point of a much wider pathology of power, cultural constituted, socially institutionalized, economically based and metaphysically theorized. Bani-Etemad’s cinema is a visual theorization against that violent metaphysics.’ C.U. P. 223

Bani-Etemad launches her destruction of patriarchal constitution of sexuality from the depth of her documented reading of Iranian society…The result is a cinematic cosmovision that renegotiates the whole colonially militated culture of capitalist modernity and its colonial consequences.’ C.U.23


‘From Iranian filmmakers Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (NARGESS; OUR TIMES) and Mohsen Abdolvahab comes a searing anti-war film presented in two parts. On the Iranian New Year of 1988, Gilaneh (Motamed Arya), a woman from the country whose only son Ishmael (Bahram Radan) is fighting in the Iran-Iraq war, takes a perilous trip into besieged Tehran with her pregnant daughter. Fifteen years later, on March 20, 2003, as another New Year approaches, fatigued Gilaneh cares for her bedridden son as TV newscasts cover America’s opening attack on Baghdad.’ 


 Samira Makmalbaf. ‘Blackboards’



Everything is on the verge of happening in Blackboard; everything is in a critical moment of expectation…The constellation of these emotive urges of expectation and urgency, accentuated by the imminent danger of an Iraqi gas attack, splits open the plaster of normalcy in the appearance of the real and pulls every aspect of the evident culture out for negotiation. The most critical moment Samira chooses for this negotiation is the pre-moment of naming, when things are still things and have no name. When the band of student-less teachers are wandering through the rugged mountains, desperate for students, we witness something more than Samira getting back at her teachers. In a brilliantly choreographed scene, a young woman who is milking a goat gives some milk to a teacher. He has finally persuaded a single boy to learn to write his name, and when the boy takes in this knowledge as the teacher drinks his milk. In this epiphatic scene, the camera oscillates between the milk and the chalk, between a living white substance and the dead, white knowledge…Instantly, a gunshot rings out and the boy falls dead. As the teacher is revived by his drink, the boy dies the moment he learns to write his name’ C.U. 274