Elevate Difference

Displaced Allegories: Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema

Professor Negar Mottahedeh's critical study of post-revolutionary Iranian film industry, Displaced Allegories, is an intelligent, stimulating, and well-written analysis of "a woman's cinema" after 1979.

The cinematic industry has been widely criticized by Iranian feminists for its problematic and stereotypical representation of women. However, the author of this book focuses on the innovative cinematic techniques that facilitate and convey a powerful message of stereotypical, veiled Iranian women, their concerns, their desires and their sexuality.

In the first phase after the Revolution, there were no women characters in Iranian films; in the second phase around the mid 1980's, female figures were involved only in long and medium shots because close-ups were very rare. By the late 1980's veiled women began to appear in leading roles. In Iranian culture, a female without a veil is considered naked in public sphere and produces "carnal desire" in "defenseless men." A mediated image of an unveiled female appearing on screen before a male audience is considered immodest and against Islamic values.

Through innovative visual language, new codes and camera conventions, well-known Iranian filmmakers such as Bahram Bayza's The Travellers (1991), Abbas Kiarostami's Life and Nothing More (1991), and Mohsen Makhmatbat's Gabbeh (1996) managed to focus on 'the private Iranian women lives' under linguistic and visual censorship.

In addition to the subtle examination of feminine desire, all of the films provide a general background to Iranian history and religion. This fascinating book will be of interest not only to feminists, film studies students, and scholars, but to any aficionado interested in Iranian culture and literature.

What impressed me as a reader was the unique opportunity to explore the many ambiguities and contradictions in the lives of Iranian women and understand them better from the position of a "European outsider."

Written by: Anna Hamling, March 21st 2009