Reza Parsa: "Before the Storm"
By Jonathan Holland
October 16, 2000 - October 22, 2000
FILM REVIEWS: BEFORE THE STORM (FORE STORMEN) (SWEDEN)
An Illusion Film/Film i Vast/Felicia Film/Per Holst Film/Norsk Film
production in association with SVT Drama, TV1000, RUV, MTV3. (International
sales: Nordisk Film, Copenhagen.) Produced by Peter Hiltunen, Johan Falemark.
Directed by Reza Parsa. Screenplay, Parsa, Mikael Bengtsson; Camera (color),
Egil Bryld; editor, Louise Brattberg; music, Peter Lundback; art director,
Lena Selander; sound (Dolby Digital), Wille Persson-Berger. Reviewed at
San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 24, 2000. Running time:
Ali ..... Per Graffman
Clara ..... Maria Lundqvist
Sara ..... Sasha Becker
Jenny ..... Anni Ececioglu
Leo ..... Emil Odepark
Danne ..... Martin Wallstrom
The Courier ..... Nasrin Pakkho
Johan Sander ..... Claes Ljungmark
Leo's Mother ..... Tintin Anderzon
Ali's Former Wife ..... Mina Azarian
Ali's Son ..... Ashkan Ghods
Exploring the unexpected ways in which the past can haunt you and a
world rife with incompatible moralities, "Before the Storm" is
an emotionally loaded, accomplished feature debut from Reza Parsa. This
strongly scripted and well-played treat convincingly employs thriller elements
to make its heavyweight agenda palatable. Born in Iran but based in Sweden
for 20 years, director Parsa, still in his 30s, is ideally placed for a
dispassionate take on the traumas of a bicultural existence.
With its lack of sensationalism and sentimentality, pic could provoke
Euro arthouse interest. It took the runner-up Silver Shell for directing
and the Youth Prize at this year's San Sebastian fest. Of Middle Eastern
origin, Ali (Per Graffman) is a cab driver in provincial Sweden who has
finally achieved an ideal of domestic happiness with wife Clara (Maria
Lundqvist) and daughters Sara (Sasha Becker) and Jenny (Anni Ececioglu).
One day his past catches up with him in the shape of the Courier (Nasrin
Pakkho), an old woman from his homeland --- script is careful not to identify
the country --- who goes around with her eye-patched grandson and refers
to Ali as "The Captain" because of his guerrilla exploits in
the homeland. Intercut is a story about 12-year-old Leo (Emil Odepark),
a classmate of Sara's who is being bullied by older boy Danne (Martin Wallstrom).
Ali encourages Leo to take a stand, whereupon the boy steals a gun from
his cop mother (Tintin Anderzon) and, in a well-played scene in the woods
outside town, shoots Danne.
Sara, meanwhile, has received a "present" from the Courier
that turns out to be a videotape of Ali's kidnapped former wife (Mina Azarian)
and son (Ashkan Ghods), with the wife's severed finger and wedding ring.
Ali has until now believed them dead. Wife and son will die, the Courier
says, unless Ali assassinates a Swedish industrialist, Johan Sander (Claes
Ljungmark), who is helping the regime back home.
Parallels between the two tales of violence and submission are not overdone.
Script is content to point out that power games exist at every social level,
from the local and domestic to the global, and that the two are not easily
disentangled. Perfs are good across the board.
Graffman's Ali, though rightly understated as a man who has learned
to hide his past and retain his equanimity in the face of catastrophic
memories, is a little too low-key. As Clara, Lundqvist explores a wide
range of emotions, though it is hardly believable that she should have
remained so ignorant of Ali's past. As Leo, 12-year-old Odepark has the
maturity to carry off his half of pic. A lyrical score teases out the emotions
beneath the script's harsh surface.