Jafar Panahi is undoubtedly the most persistent and resourceful director working in film today. Despite being banned for 20 from making films by the Iranian authorities, Panahi still finds a way to keep on working. In 2011 he made This Is Not a Film under house arrest on an Iphone which was smuggled out of the country on a flash drive secreted inside a birthday cake. His second outing under the ban, Closed Curtain, sees him fraying at the edges, full of melancholy and self-recrimination.
A screenwriter (Kambozia Partovi) arrives at a villa on the Caspian Sea along with his dog Boy. In an attempt to complete his manuscript unmolested he disguises himself and covers the windows to protect himself (and the illicit canine) from prying eyes. Meika (Maryam Moqadam) and her brother Reza (Hadi Saeedi) shatter his solitude in their desperate attempts to hide from the police. He is left with Meika who begins to questions his bravery and he becomes anxious that she’s been sent to spy on him.
Closed Curtain feels like a therapeutic act from a director questioning his own courage and commitment to fighting a repressive regime. As Panahi wrestles with the validity of his actions the film oscilates between melancholy and hope. It’s a remarkable achievement given the circumstances but fails to pack the same punch as his previous outing. The argument between outright and covert defiance is one which clearly troubles him and it’s such a travesty that he’s not able to work freely.
Closed Curtain is out in cinemas on Friday.