I’m sort of live blogging here, writing this on a Mac in the San Francisco International Film Festival press lounge, just after watching the movie. If this seems unpolished, there’s a reason: I’m writing this and posting it quickly.
Before this strange and beautiful Iranian fantasy screened, a staff member told us that writer/director Mohammad Rasoulof recently spent some time in prison. That’s not hard to believe after watching the movie. There was some definate political satire here, although not of the constant belly laugh variety.
The central character, an aging man with sad eyes, travels by rowboat through a strange seascape in a remote and salty place (I hesitate to say “land”). The people he visits live on islands in a very salty sea, with salt covering the land as well in great mounds. One wonders where these people find food and fresh water.
His job? He listens to people’s tales of woe, and collects their tears. Why does he collect tears? He doesn’t want to talk about it, but he keeps a close eye on the bottle he’s slowly filling.
The people have their own customs, disconnected from anything I’ve heard of about Islam or Iran. A young “bride” turns out to be a human sacrifice. A man is tortured for insisting that the sea isn’t always blue. This isn’t reality, of course, but a fable about life in a theocracy.
The White Meadows is an astonishingly beautiful film, filled with striking, forbidding, yet lovely white landscapes and seascapes. The mood is oppressive, watchful, and occasionally funny in a dry, painful way. The lead character is hardly sympathetic, but his sad eyes and the people he meets move and fascinate you.
Not a must, but worth catching if you can.