Still from Goodbye (2011) — Image via prettypictures.fr

Goodbye

Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof (2011)

Goodbye (Bé omid é didar), by Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, is a carefully constructed and often chilling dramatization of the impact of political events in Iran on a person who has attempted to influence the direction of her society and whose livelihood and social position have been taken from her as a result of her actions.

Noora (Leyla Zareh) is a young human rights lawyer who has been disbarred by the authorities as a result of her involvement in politically sensitive cases. Her husband, Mehrdad (Shahab Hosseini) is a journalist whose newspaper has similarly been shut down by the government. We are told that Mehrdad has gotten a job as a crane driver on a development project in the desert, which may or may not be a cover story for his ongoing involvement in underground journalism. In any case, Noora has been left alone in Tehran, constructing homemade decorative gift boxes for a little income while painstakingly attempting to carry out her and Mehrdad’s plan to emigrate from Iran.

Still from Goodbye (2011) — Image via prettypictures.frThat plan — devised by a travel agent who has gained a reputation for helping people who want to leave the country for good — involves Noora getting pregnant and then obtaining permission for her and Mehrdad to leave the country so she can present a paper at an international legal conference. Everything has been carefully timed so that while she is abroad, she will give birth to the child, which will apparently enable her and Mehrdad to remain in the unspecified country where the conference is taking place.

The film begins very late in this process, less than three weeks before Noora and Mehrdad are due to leave for the conference. Outwardly, everything appears to be going as planned, but we quickly gather that all is not well. On the phone with Mehrdad, Noora is upbeat and positive about their prospects for a new life with their new child — something that must require great effort, because when she is not on the phone, it is clear that she is under an oppressive emotional burden. As Noora navigates her way through medical appointments, travel preparations, interactions with friends and colleagues, and visits from the police, we gradually learn about the dilemmas she faces and the barriers standing in the way of her and Mehrdad’s emigration plans.

Over the course of the film, we gain the sense that Noora is accustomed to the relative comforts of middle-class existence in Iran — comforts that are denied to the vast majority of the population. But we also see how precarious her position is, now that her career has been taken from her and she is being forced to liquidate most of her possessions to pay the costs associated with her relocation — including the many bribes she must pay in order to take actions she is not supposed to be allowed to take without her absent husband’s permission. The film takes the risk that viewers will settle into a position of unsympathy for Noora after watching her acquiesce quietly to many indignities that we might expect a human rights lawyer to oppose more vigorously, but once the full extent of her situation is revealed, we are better able to understand her actions.

Still from Goodbye (2011) — Image via prettypictures.frIn a recent interview (warning: contains spoilers), Rasoulof uses a boxing analogy to describe his intentions for Goodbye. At the beginning of the film, Noora has already received the final punch, and what remains for viewers to do is to watch her fall. This provides some helpful context to the relentlessly oppressive nature of the situations portrayed in the film, supported by the cold color palette and the frequent intrusion of harsh, ominous sounds, from traffic noises to the sounds made by a police officer rummaging through everything in Noora’s apartment.

One obvious backdrop for all of this is the personal situation of the director. In 2010, Rasoulof and colleague Jafar Panahi were arrested on suspicion of conspiring against the Iranian regime. Later that year, both filmmakers were convicted of colluding to propagandize against the Islamic Republic and were sentenced to six years in prison and 20-year bans on making or directing any films. Rasoulof’s prison sentence was later reduced to one year, and he has apparently not yet been incarcerated. Nevertheless, the arrest and conviction of some of Iran’s most talented and thoughtful artists is one of many instances of the damage wrought by the ongoing struggles between different factions of the Iranian establishment, taking place in the context of increasing international tensions.

It would not be fair or accurate to reduce Goodbye to autobiography or political commentary, but it would also be impossible to understand the events portrayed in the film without some understanding of their context. The focus of Goodbye is undeniably narrow — as the situation in Iran has gotten more politically urgent, the country’s most internationally acclaimed filmmakers have increasingly devoted their attention to the difficulties faced by the upper and middle classes, which is probably a weakness in the aggregate — but that does not stop it from being a worthwhile and compelling film.

Several online sources claim that Goodbye‘s Persian title is more accurately translated into English as “hope to see you again.” One can only hope that the world is not prevented from seeing more of what Rasoulof and other Iranian filmmakers have to offer.

Originally posted on The 400 Blows

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.

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