I finally got a chance to watch “Women without Men”, the first feature film by Shirin Neshat. Visually, the film is stunning. However, content and script are no match for the film’s remarkable visual effect.
The film follows the lives of four women, a traditional girl, a prostitute, a middle-aged unhappily married, and one with ambitions of political activism in the backdrop of 1953 Coup. That may be the first problem with the film: there is hardly any connection (except for Munis’s interest in politics) between the main story of the women and the ‘backdrop’. At times, it is not clear which is which or whether they are taken from the same film. I admire and applaud Neshat’s initiative in bringing up the subject that has influenced contemporary Iran to a great extent, but her film fails to connect the two: the story of the other three women could be happening any other time; the political unrest and oppression do not affect most of them. Why put it there?
The actresses enter and exit the film as symbols; they never step out of the symbolic world. No character building; hardly any motivation for what they do. Acting is often constrained and disconnected. Death is everywhere, but once again, spread about with hardly any connection to anything else.
The film won the Silver Lion Award for best director in Venice Film Festival in 2009. If you are in for an amazing array of spectacular shots, the film is worth watching a few times. Unfortunately, I cannot say that about content/character/plot which lag far behind the amazing visuals.