Thursday, March 16, 2006

IRON ISLAND. In Mohammad Rasoulof's film Iron Island, a community inhabits a slowly sinking ship that is actually not very far from land. A sort of peace prevails as the impoverished inhabitants cannibalize the ship to secure revenue, but violence sometimes breaks out within the contained society.

The squabbles in the film defend the wills of two men. One is a father who spends much of his time working off board; the other, a higher authority, is the ship's captain, a "local mayor" type who seems genuinely concerned about his people but also intent on maintaining his dominance over them. Played masterfully by Ali Nasirian, Captain Nemat has the manner of a benevolent and visionary "leader of the people" but basically governs according to old rules of the sea, acting as if his charges were isolated, adrift, incompetent, and capable of erupting into mutinous chaos at any given moment. Rasoulof brings this home powerfully in scenes that show how Nemat (the name an apparent nod to Jules Verne's Captain Nemo) responds to signs of independence.

The first time I saw Iron Island I had some trouble making sense of it, but on a second viewing I think I "got" at least one or two of its overarching themes. This unusual movie unfolds episodically and perhaps a little too slowly, but it fascinates as it explores a premise rife with satirical and allegorical potential. This Iranian export plays at New Directors/New Films on March 28 (Lincoln Center) and March 30 (MOMA) and then opens March 31 at the Cinema Village.

Photo courtesy of Kino International

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