Given the turbulent political and social situation that has dogged Iran’s modern history, it’s in many ways surprising that their cinema is so good. Despite operating under a number of restrictions and government censorship, it’s easily the strongest filmmaking country in the region. Despite the odds stacked against them, Iranian directors have been regular award-winners on the festival circuit. It was feared that Chess of the Wind was lost forever, but thanks to a miracle we’re able to see Mohammad Reza Aslani’s wonderful film.
After the death of a rich matriarch, there is a scramble to take control of her wealthy estate. Her disabled daughter (Fakhri Khorvash) is heiress, but her mother’s second husband believes he’s entitled to the fortune. As do both his conniving sons and the local commissar is in on the plan. She finds solace in a closeness with her handmaiden (Shohreh Aghdashloo), who affords the embattled lady an element of independence she craves.
Chess of the Wind is a beautiful and remarkable tale of intrigue and deceit. Aslani transplants the southern Gothic to the Middle East, creating a hothouse atmosphere of machinations, disloyalty and scheming. It’s a claustrophobic setting for a tale which oozes dread. This tension is aided by impressive, yet subtle, sound design. The influence of the European masters is ever-present. In every small gesture and close-up shot. Chess of the Wind is a wonderful rediscovery of a dark and deadly drama. The 4k restoration is an absolute joy to behold.
Chess of the Wind screens for free as part of London Film Festival until 13 October.