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Sara (1993)

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Sara (1993)

Dariush Mehrjui is one of the most accomplished filmmakers of Iran, and earned international recognition in the 1970s with Gav / The Cow (1969) which heralded the Iranian New Wave. Mehrjui gained the reputation as a ‘women’s filmmaker’ in the 1990s with films such as Sara (1993), Pari (1995), Leila (1997) and Bemani (2002), all of which focus on contemporary women trapped between tradition and modernity. The eponymous heroes are exceptional characters who try to come to terms with their dilemmas in unconventional ways.

Inspired by Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and adapted to Iranian realities, Sara presents a positive protagonist, who is effectively involved in the welfare of her family. She saves her husband’s life by borrowing the money for his operation with­out his knowledge and embroiders wedding gowns secretly in the house for four years to pay back the loan. When the husband, who is shown as a self-centered character with tunnel vision, finally finds out, instead of thanking her, he gets upset because now they are indebted to his corrupt clerk. He calls her ‘a brainless woman’. In an emotionally charged scene, he stands on top of the stairs and yells at Sara’s tiny figure down below that he will not let her bring up his child. By the time conflict reaches a resolution, Sara has gained a new outlook on life, which makes it impossible for things to remain the same. Her final look from the rear window of the taxi as she leaves her husband is full of fear and apprehension. The film is open-ended, but there is every indication that her revolt is far from over. Now that she has gained self-respect and confidence, she can have a new start, with or without her husband.

The last duologue between the couple is significant. Unlike the routine conversations about mundane daily matters that we had heard before as the couple sat to eat while watching television, this is the first time they really talk to each other:

Sara: I have been victimized, first by my father, then by you. Neither of you treated me like a human being. When I was at my father’s home, I had to think like him. If I had an idea of my own, I had to shut up because he did not like being contradicted. When I began to see things, I fell into your house. Here I was the mute little darling who had to do what she was told to do and keep quiet.

Husband: No man would sacrifice his honor for the sake of love.

Sara: And yet women do it all the time.

Apart from Sara, there are two other women in the film: the old aunt, who is the epitome of a woman seen and not heard, and Sara’s friend and confidante, Sima, an independ­ent, self-supporting widow. Unlike Sara, Sima is not afraid of men. She knows their weak points and she knows how to deal with them, which is unusual for women who are brought up in traditional Muslim households, where mothers install the fear of masculine superiority in their daughters at an earlier age.

Sara’s revolt brings about a revelation; faced with a determined woman, men are as helpless as a child. The roles can easily be reversed. The circular camera shots of the last sequences show the confused state of the husband running around his wife, who is calm and composed as she prepares her luggage. As the taxi pulls away, he stands at the door helpless like a child who has lost his toy. With only a bedsheet covering his lower parts, he also looks rather ridiculous.

Among the ‘women’ cycle of Mehrjui’s work, Sara is perhaps the most outstanding. The film enjoyed wide popularity in Iran, especially among women who found the story of a woman’s sacrifices for her husband and the selfishness of Muslim men who put disgrace to their honor before everything else very familiar – Gönül Dönmez-Colin

Cast and Production Credits

Year – 1993, Genre – Drama, Country –Iran, Language – Persian, Director – Dariush Mehrjui, Cast – Niki Karimi, Amin Tarokh, Khosro Shakibai, Yasman Malek-Nasr

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