IFFI 2019 CLOSING FILM
BY AAKASH CHHABRA
In Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Marghe and Her Mother (2019) – which is set to close the 50th edition of the International Film Festival of India – Claudia, a 22 year-old single mother, is evicted from her house after not being able to pay the rent. Hapless, she leaves her six year-old daughter with an old lady, while she goes to search for a job, the love she never found and an identity in the modern world.
“It narrates the story of three generations of women. Despite living together and in close proximity, their worlds have grown so apart that they struggle to understand one another. Although it is made in Italy, the story can be based anywhere in the world. Modern life, besides all its possibilities and numerous choices it has offered to mankind, seems to have jeopardised some of their basic needs. Having a secure and stable job, a trusting friendship, true love or sometimes even their basic human dignity,” writes Makhmalbaf in his journal.
The film is primarily shot along the Basilicata-Calabria border, which caught in a collision between modern standards and archaic lores. Cineuropa critic Camillo De Marco wrote, “Though a little film, Marghe and Her Mother (2019) marks a shift in Makhmalbaf’s thematic objectives, which sees the director leave behind the ferocious critiquing of dictatorships and the decoding of the Arab Spring which characterised The President (2014), to instead turn attention to the aberrations of liquid modernity and the plight of Generation Z – “total flexibility without the nostalgia for solidity”, to borrow the words of Zygmunt Bauman. It poignantly depicts the failure within the social system and the renunciation of identity values.”
Claudia and her friend Giulia are both merely 22 years of age, and have been abandoned by their respective partners. They are interminably on the hunt for a job which will allow them and their daughters to continue living the modest lives they been acclimatized to. The duo stumbles upon two men who too are jobless, and together the four devise a plan to start kidnapping dogs in order to ask their owners for a hefty ransom. Soon, they garner attention of the local police. De Marco writes, “At this point story takes an autobiographical turn, during the reign of the hated Shah, Makhmalbaf was part of an underground Islamic group and, at 17 years old, he ended up in prison for attacking a policeman, an episode which informed one of the director’s most intense works, A Moment of Innocence, released in 1996.”
The film, which boasts of subtle performances by its rather non-professional cast and a minimalist editing pattern and sound design, often leaves gaps for the viewers to discern the director’s intentions, and follows the same poetics which the Iranian New Wave auteur has perfected over the span of his entire career.
Marghe and Her Mother screens at multiple venues this evening. Samira Makhmalbaf – the acclaimed Iranian director of Blackboards (2000) and Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s daughter – will present it at Kala Academy at 7 PM.
Read more from The Peacock: Issue 9 (2019) here: