Based on the book by Shahrnush Parsipur banned in Iran, Women Without Men is an ambitious artsy and somewhat gorgeous film that took its director, Shirin Neshat the Venice Film Festival Silver Lion award for Best Director.
Ambitious because director Neshat weaves together four different stories of oppressed women and brings in nirvana in the form of a beautiful garden where they congregate without the company of men. There is the prostitute Zarin (Orsolya Toth) who scrubs herself bloody in a watchable scene, as if to cleanse herself from the touch of men. Munis (Shabnam Toloui) jumps to her death after refusing to meet a pre-arranged suitor while her best friend, Faezeh (Arita Sharzad) refuses the advances of her brother though secretly liking him.
The garden is owned by Sadri (Tahmoures Tehrani) who leaves her husband after being accused of being too decadent. All the stories are told in the political backdrop of the overthrow of the Iranian democratic government by the Americans and the British (for oil control, no doubt) and the installation of the western friendly Shah.
The stories are interesting enough and the backdrop is even more intriguing. It is good to note that abuse of women depicted here is Iranian society is also well and alive in all societies. The one and important difference is that the Iranian women have no where to turn to. So, it is the garden of Sari that they congregate or perhaps die to live in another world of Women Without Men’s influences.
Neshat’s movie is beautiful and definetely worth watching, and by the way the only choise you have is to watch the movie online. Most of the shots are in minimal colour (mostly monochrome) with colour threads. Her fusion of colours and images are no doubt breathtaking, but they take away the tough message she is trying to get across. Also the four stories are too different and bear no connection to each other except for the common theme of abuse.
Neshat’s film finally fails as an ambitious attempt to make a mark on the subject of women abuse but fails to make a stronger impact due to the full movie leading in too many directions.