Directed by: Samira Makhmalbaf
Countries & Regions: Iran
Length: 84 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 7 June 2010
Cat No: ART489DVD
Screen ratio 1:1.78
Dolby Digital 2.0
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In Iran, two twelve-year-old sisters have lived all their lives as prisoners of their impoverished father and blind mother. The father... Read More
One of the most fascinating aspects of Samira Makhmalbaf’s marvellous debut is its use of symbolism. Throughout the film, Makhmalbaf employs metaphors which, when examined away from the film, seem crass and obvious. At one point the girls pour water on a blooming flower growing outside of their prison, whilst the continual references to eponymous fruit of knowledge, often seen dangling tantalizingly just in front of the characters, would be understood by anyone with even a very basic knowledge of religious symbolism. And yet, against all odds, every scene involving these metaphors works incredibly well, and the closing scene, involving the apple, packs a real punch.
Perhaps the reason these scenes fail to jar is that they are shot with the artless simplicity and audacity of a child. This is unsurprising, since Makhmalbaf was just 17 when she directed and co-wrote the film (her father, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, helped with the script). Her directorial style is completely un-self-conscious, and what the audience witnesses here is raw, unaffected cinema. This is particularly appropriate when the two protagonists are children, played here by Massoumeh and Zahra Naderi, the actual girls involved in the real-life case. This is perhaps the really remarkable element of the film – Makhmalbaf has persuaded all of the real-life people involved in the events to play themselves in the film. Considering how potentially unsympathetic the mother and father could come across, it is truly astonishing that they agreed to participate, and yet this adds a real humanity to the tale. There are no heroes or villains in this film, and the father appears to be acting out of his warped idea of what is best for his children. The mother, meanwhile, appears to be the real victim of the case, as a desperately insecure blind woman completely reliant on her family – she has led a sheltered life herself, and does not realise the potential damage she is inflicting on her daughters.
This deeply moving film is one of the greatest films about childhood ever made, and even those loathe to the slow, rhythmic style of much Iranian cinema will be hard-pushed not to become emotionally involved by The Apple’s heartrending conclusion. A brilliant debut from a burgeoning talent.