Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater” is as aromatic as its namesake, but its message is bittersweet
This is not a movie banking on big name actors, special-effects sequences, or current Hollywood film trends. When you come to think of it, this is not a movie at all. This is a nuanced film.
With the exception of only a few instances where John Stewart’s brand of comedy bleeds through the bitterly vivid depiction of present day Iran, “Rosewater” conveys to its audience an intellectual and palatable film adaptation of Maziar Bahari’s memoirs.
Side note: Disclosure being the first rule of blogging (I just made that up), I have to let you in on a little secret. I am an Iranian-American. I know, shocking right? You would never have guessed that a name like Pooya (from a Persian word meaning”dynamic” or “researcher”) could possibly have a foreign origin. But, there you have it. Now all you FadFans know my secret. That I, Pooya, am Persian[-American].
“Have you washed your hands? Go, wash your hands.”
Iran is the current day predecessor of the culturally robust Persian Empire. With its rich history comes a intricate patchwork of cultural nuance. Iranian society, much like that of American or any other society, is predicated upon the influences of its past. That could mean deep rooted stereotypes and stigmas that were born from a more archaic social mindset, or the blanketed perception as a nation to be wholly ‘Good’ or ‘Evil.’ Keeping that in mind, an equally skillful nuance needs to be applied when creating a film that crosses a cultural divide. Without these subtleties, the context will be lost to the internationally un-indoctrinated. Context is important.
Jon Stewart masterfully captures the cultural nuances of Iranian society and with it aptly illustrates the beginnings of the “green movement.” Which led to the detainment of the main character, Maziar. I don’t know which is more impressive, Stewart’s ability to translate the diverse idiosyncrasies of the Iranian people to film or that this was his first directorial attempt.
This film, in a truly creative and awful manner, chronicles the tribulations of the Canadian-Iranian journalist who found himself detained for 118 days by the Basij. The meticulous and painstaking efforts by Stewart and his production team are worthy of praise. Filmed predominately in Jordan, and at an active Jordanian prison at that, “Rosewater” is able to capture the brutal essence of sub standard and out right inhumane accommodations for detainees, not just in Iran, but around the world.
Gael Garcia Bernal did a more than superb job portraying the conflicted and at times naive Maziar Bahari. His emotional and truly telling rendition of the Newsweek Journalist turned accused Spy and tortured captive was entrancing.
Kim Bodnia also brought a top-notch performance to the screen as Maziar’s interrogator, dubbed “Rosewater.” Aside from Bodina’s ability to convey a sense of dominance while maintaining a feeling of uncertainty and fear was truly impeccable. The character was strong yet flawed and plagued with weakness of mind and faith in duty. This gives audiences a sense that although Maziar is the captive, the interrogators fears and suspicion keep them in a perpetual state of emotional captivity. A captivity more painful and inescapable than that which Maziar faced.
Throughout the film there was a creative approach to illustrating Maziar’s memories. In one scene in particular he is walking the streets of Tehran upon returning from his sisters funeral recalling memories and emotions of her from the past. These memories manifest in the form of various images and other graphic representations taking place in the windows and billboard spaces along the street. Not only was this method visually pleasing, but it also effectively conveyed his sentiments towards his sister and father in a unique and memorable way.
Another theme to note is that this film revolves around a really sensitive and ongoing Iranian socio-political struggle. Stewart does a really good job of conveying the raw emotions but not delving too deep into any particular political orientation. It was a very balanced and objective recollection of a series of unfortunate events.
More than anything, this film makes you think. If you are a fan of history and culture, then this is just the movie for you. Stewart’s “Rosewater” blends Drama and Documentary to create a gripping and enjoyably informative film experience. In addition to watching this film again in the future, I look forward to more directorial work from Stewart now that he is handing over the reign’s of “The Daily Show.”
With the exception of only a few instances where John Stewart's brand of comedy bleeds through the bitterly vivid depiction of present day Iran, "Rosewater" conveys to its audience an intellectual and palatable film adaptation of Maziar Bahari's memoirs. This is a MUST SEE film for those who have an interest in current events and Geo-politics.