Film Scouts Reviews


by Leslie Rigoulot

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September 3, 1996

For those of us who think of film as storytelling, it is sometimes difficult to comprehend those who see film as poetry. Mohsen Makhmalbaf is one of Iran's best known filmmakers, although ignored by the press and barely tolerated by the government. Werner Herzog was on hand to introduce "Gabbeh" and explain the Iranian fascination with poetry; the only reason the government does tolerate Makhmalbaf is because he is seen as a poet. He certainly is a visual poet! 'Gabbeh" is a love story about a young woman, who belongs to a nomadic rug-weaving tribe, and the horseman who wants to marry her. But it is the visual imagery of the sheep, the wool being dyed, the rugs being made that take center stage. When her uncle stops at a nomadic school to give a lesson, the sheer power of the colors is breathtaking. He reaches towards a field and returns with a handful of yellow flowers; to the sky, and his hand turns blue. The rug that Gabbeh is washing changes under the water, and different aspects of the story are highlighted.

While everyone commented on the colors and the visuals, no one I talked to seemed to take the story to heart. Our linear thinking prevents it. But thinking of "Gabbeh" as poetry instead of narrative certainly broadens the view.

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