Palace Brighton Bay, 21/02 4:30pm
Running time: 103m
Country: United States
Release date: 19/02/15
Cost: $10 (Optus Rewards)
Rating: 6/10 (ME 2.5/5, DP 3.5/5)
Rosewater is a movie based on the true story of journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal) who is arrested and detained while covering the 2009 Iranian Presidential elections between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, for Newsweek magazine. Bahari returns from London to his native Iran prior to the elections, to document the feelings, fears and aspirations of the Iranian people during the election process. With Ahmadinejad ultimately declared the landslide winner of the election (a totally unexpected result), claims of electoral fraud are rife and demonstrations break out across the country. Bahari becomes caught up in a particularly violent riot outside a police complex in Tehran, filming it and quickly releasing it for worldwide distribution. Following the release of this footage, Bahari is arrested and taken to the Evin Prison, where he is held for 118 days on suspicion of being a foreign agent or spy linked to the CIA in America. He is held in solitary confinement, psychologically tortured and sometimes brutally beaten (but not his face) in efforts to make him admit to being a spy. His participation in a satirical sketch for Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” entitled 'Behind the Veil - Minarets of Menace', is used as evidence against him and is the path that led to Jon Stewart actually directing this movie. We are shown Bahari’s journey through his months of detention until he is finally released following international outcry.
Gael Garcia Bernal does an excellent job in the role of Bahari, demonstrating total vulnerability whilst held and brutalised, and also conveying a true inner strength as he makes the determination to survive his ordeal. Kim Bodnia as the ‘specialist’ assigned to extract Bahari’s confession (also known to Bahari as ‘Rosewater’ because of the distinctive scent that he wore) is suitably menacing but also has his human side revealed. Shohreh Aghdashloo as Bahari’s long suffering mother Moloojoon (who has also lost her husband and daughter at the hands of past brutal regimes) remains steadfast, brave and unemotional throughout.
This is not a movie that could be said to be enjoyable, but it is very engaging and at times rather moving. Characters are well developed and it is pleasing that the Iranian officials are not portrayed as simple, two dimensional caricatures designed to be the victims of our hatred and disdain. Instead they are shown to be somewhat regular people simply doing a job, while demonstrating normal human feelings and emotions. Iran is shown to be a complex and changing society and their ongoing distrust of the US is given the appropriate historical context. A high quality of cinematography is utilised to present the clash of new and old (for example Tehran’s shiny and modern international airport against the beauty and intricacy of the old mosques) and the beauty of many of the external visuals contrast starkly with the small and clinical spaces of Bahari’s cell and the Specialist’s office. This is an interesting film that, while not coming highly recommended, is definitely worth a look if you get the chance. (DP)