Four stories from contemporary Iran, all linked by the theme of capital punishment and suppression of freedoms, make up this Berlin Golden Bear-winning drama from Mohammad Rasoulof. It’s a typically forthright and powerful work from the director, who was sentenced to a year in prison in 2020 after three of his films were found to be “propaganda against the system”.
Rather than take as its subject the prisoners sentenced to death, the film instead explores the impact on those who must enact the order; who, one way or another, are left with their own life sentences. A father and husband goes about the banal business of family life, but the comfortable existence that his job buys for his wife and daughter leaves him with chinks of trauma that leak through on the drive to work in the small hours of the morning. A soldier finds himself unable to follow the order to execute and makes a decision to escape instead. An older man lives with the consequences of making that same choice. Bleakly matter-of-fact in approach, the film has a devastating cumulative power that grows with each story.