Asghar Farhadi, Iran, 2009, Memento Films
A group of friends arrive at a resort. We follow them along a path leading to the sea. The soundtrack, a mix of crashing waves, wind and seagulls mingled with excited laughs and the shouts of the friends, gives us a hint of the scale of the group’s anticipation of the pleasures and joys to come. To get to the beach they have to crossover a threshold, that of a heavy gate locked with a thick chain, which a young guard rushes to open for them, leaping off of one of the cars, as the group waits impatiently, soon filling the screen. Just then one of the wee boys appears on the other side of the gate. As if by magic he’s managed to get past this obstacle which moments before seemed impassable. Even if this small feat makes everyone laugh it appears somehow strange, anomalous, out of kilter with everything else and offers up a sign that the promise of the good times to come may not actually be kept. The discovery of a place is also a form of investment, revealing characters’ interests – the children run off out to sea, whilst the adults head for the house. In the darkness of the house, the camera waits for the small group. Then, moving fluidly, the camera accompanies Sepideh as she opens the house’s doors and windows, which the light gradually reveals as a dilapidated and dirty space. The group, at first circumspect, now seem reluctant to invest themselves in the space. Each character explores the space in their own way. The director follows the women as they examine the kitchen cupboards, opening them one after another, whilst others set about discovering the rest of the house, room by room. It’s not quite the villa they were promised at the start of their adventure. The dilapidated aspect of the space doesn’t squash some people’s enthusiasm, and they’ve already invested themselves in its potential. Then, contrary to Sepideh’s excitement, one of the principal characters tries to organise a group meeting in the sitting room. The aim of the meeting is to decide whether they should leave, or choose to make the most of the space for themselves. Underlying this question of choice of holiday home is a universal theme - power. Each stance that a character takes is a power play in the dynamic of the group, hidden below the surface of this seemingly relaxed conversation.