Influence of Italian Neorealism and French New Wave on Iranian Cinema Essay

The friction between the Westernization of the ruling powers and the highly religious sects led by Ayatollah Khomeini resulted in works such as The Cow by Dariush Mehrjui and Qeysar by Masoud Kimiai. Nevertheless, it was following the Popular Revolution in 1979 that the Iranian New Wave movement (as it is known today) began to truly take shape. In parts two and three, I am going to ask how and why the post-revolution cinema, particularly works from auteur Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, took on its genre defining conventions.

Despite intense interior turmoil, the past thirty years have seen Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi and the Makhmalbaf family evolve into internationally recognized names. For many, the answer lies in the form and structure seeming to be heavily influenced by Italian neorealism and the French New Wave, thus appealing to European film critics. These filmmakers (as well as many younger Iranian directors) found critical and commercial praise in following this form and style, employing features such as real locations and non-professional actors.

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As a result, the films share an intrinsic aesthetic commonality that has become known as the Iranian New Wave movement. In the film Stray Dogs, Marzieh Meshkini (wife of Mohsen Makhmalbaf) made explicit reference to the canonical neorealist film Bicycle Thieves as the characters Gol-Ghotai and Zahed not only watch the film but also attempt to assimilate the actions of the protagonists and steal bikes. Despite bringing into question its realist pretentions (What interest is a European film to Iranian children living in poverty? How do they have the money? ), the scene nevertheless recognizes exterior influences upon the film.

In response to a question on its form, Meshkini responded by saying she had been “influenced by the ideas of Cezare Zavatini, the neorealist theoretician; by his ideas of no using set-design and make-up, and making films on people’s daily live, outside the studio. ” Furthermore, just as neorealism was a reaction to the political tensions in Italy, Meshkini explored domestic historical similarities as a basis for the form and structure of her film: “The reason should be sought in the similarities between the post-war Afghanistan and the post-war Italy and the emergence of the neorealist cinema.

After twenty-five years of civil war and fights against foreign armies, people in Afghanistan faced a situation very similar to the social and economic crisis in Italy during the years 1945-48. Stray Dogs is a film about people in the streets at a time when they have just come out of the inferno of a war. ” Another factor which the New Wave movement shares with neorealism is the rejection of a musical soundtrack. In response to a question on how sound elements are used in his films, director Abbas Kiarostami responded: “I never think of sound during the editing stage.

There might be some minor changes during the editing, but sounds are finalized before that stage… I never have a musical soundtrack on my films. When you edit out the slightest of sounds, like a fly or a bird hovering over your microphone, how can you let someone else impose a whole soundtrack on your film? ” In controlling the audience’s personal response to his films, the meanings become lost in sentimentality.

Embedding in them mundane noises, such as the violence of traffic or a crying baby, allow the films to stay free without being absorbed by overly emotional music. Clearly, Iranian cinema has had an active relationship with European film movements, notably with neorealist pretensions. However, as part three will show, understanding Iranian cinema solely in these terms can be reductive and reject the ongoing domestic dialectic between the religious Theodicy and the modernizing forces in the country.