The 2020 Golden Bear winner finally makes its way to cinemas, following lengthy delays due to you-know-what.
Last year, Mohammad Rasoulof’s Sheytan vojud nadarad (There Is No Evil) became the third Iranian film in the last 10 years to win the Golden Bear, following Jafar Panahi’s Taxi Teheran and Asghar Farhadi’s A Seperation. Filmed in secret following Rasoulof’s prison sentence and filmmaking ban, handed down by the Iranian authorities who deemed is 2017 Cannes-winning drama A Man of Integrity “propaganda against the system”, There Is No Evil continues to boldly denounce Iranian repression.
The four genre-fluid shorts that comprise There Is No Evil revolve around capital punishment and go out of their way to disprove the film’s provocative title. Through a domestic drama hiding an almighty reveal, a prison-break thriller, a poignant romance and a familial story, Rasoulof explores not only the banality of evil, exposes how oppressive regimes quash freedoms through law and imposed ethical codes, and engages the audience by immersing us in the central question that simmers beneath the surface of each story: blindly follow power or flee it knowing the seemingly inescapable consequences?
While thought-provoking throughout, there’s no denying that the film occasionally feels didactic due to some clunky lines and is uneven, partly due to its tonally chameleonic approach: it starts with the most impactful story and dips in the less inspired fourth segment. However, There Is No Evil remains a chillingly compelling anthology film, whose open-ended and oddly playful final beat is truly inspired.
Sheytan vojud nadarad (There Is No Evil) / Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof (Iran, 2020), with Mohammad Seddighimehr, Zhila Shahi. Starts August 19.