Movie Review by Stephen Doyle
Starring: Maryam Moghaddam, Kamal Naroui
Director: Babak Payami
Babak Payami’s SILENCE BETWEEN TWO THOUGHTS is a tragedy, Iranian style. The character whose tragic decline is featured is the unnamed executioner of a village (played by Kamai Naroui), his tragic flaw being his brooding and querying temperament which makes him question the unreasonable decisions of his religious leader Haji, who rules the Executioner’s impoverished and barren village with an iron hand.
The film begins with the Executioner justifying his nickname by executing some of his villages prisoners. He is stopped from killing the last prisoner – a female virgin (Maryam Moghaddam) – as he is told that whereas criminals go to hell, an executed virgin will go to heaven. So instead of executing her, the Executioner is told by Haji that he must first marry her and then deflower her. The Executioner, formerly a devout follower of Haji, starts questioning him when this order, at odds with Haji’s previous teachings, is given. The Executioner’s downfall beckons…
The film is at its best when dealing with the complex politics of the village, which serves as a microcosm of Iran. An ominous air hangs over the village as it splits into different factions causing family member to oppose family member, and friend to oppose friend. Indeed, the Executioner is estranged from his family who do not agree with his devotion to Haji. They believe he has aligned himself to Haji for material gain, whereas the Executioner himself sincerely believes he has sided with Haji for spiritual reasons.
SILENCE BETWEEN TWO THOUGHTS is no doubt worthy and high-minded, but it remains an undeniably ascetic, and even dull, experience. One would have to be a committed member of the arthouse film crowd, or else have an interest in the Middle East, to derive much pleasure from this. It moves along at a snail’s pace, and its plot fails to sustain the 95-minute running time. Coupled with the lack of plot is a lack of dialogue. Camera shots seem to linger on endlessly, focusing on a landscape or a character’s face, for minutes at a time. In some films this can be effective, as leisurely shots can at times be intense and meaningful, not to mention gorgeous, but in SILENCE BETWEEN TWO THOUGHTS these shots too often just seem dull and forced.