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Monday, 27 January 2014 06:31

Iran’s Modern Cinema (63)

Iran’s Modern Cinema (63)

As a reminder, in previous episodes, we discussed many topics related to Iran’s film industry. Now, we want to speak of the bond of Iran’s film industry with literature and other types of art. As you know, film industry is a younger art, compared to other forms of art.

Nonetheless, this art has managed to overtake other forms of art, and to make the best of its power of influence on the viewers. Meanwhile, to this end, other forms of art have assisted film industry to grow stronger than ever.

As of the emergence of film industry, literary excerpts have played a decisive role in this industry, and usually films, based on popular literary works have been blockbusters for their producers. Although literary excerpts are the symbol of diversity and success of film industry, it has been said on several occasions that the book itself has been more attractive than the film which has displayed the related literary work. In this case, we may come to believe that the film industry can never display the delicacies of literature, and only words can strongly convey feelings and thoughts, while motivating the imagination of readers. But, many believe that the state-of-the-art technologies used in film industry can depict pictures for the viewers that are beyond the narrations and words of literary works. The ample capacities of the present day film industry, which even display body language, are part of the superiorities of this industry compared to other forms of art.

Meanwhile, the film industry is arguably closely linked with literature. Roughly, half of the box office hits across the world have been based on literary works, including blockbusting movies such as “Gone with the Wind”, “Godfather”, ‘Hamlet”, and “War and Peace”.

Also, one can name authors, who have pioneered this scene, and in addition to becoming famous writers, have drawn the attention of filmmakers. Among these acclaimed authors, mention can be made of William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, and Alexander Dumas. Also a number of plays from playwrights such as Anton Chekhov, Moliere, and Tennessee Williams, in addition to dozens of other playwrights have had their themes turned into film scripts, leading to production of valuable and popular films.

Based on statistical figures, at times several feature films have been made based on one literary work in different periods of time. For instance, the tragedy named King Lear, authored by William Shakespeare, has formed the basis of dozens of feature films in different countries; each of which have focused on this literary work from a different angle.

Iran’s film industry, from its very beginning, maintained an interest in production of feature films based on literary works, while cementing its bonds with literature. Although this bond has been undermined at times, it has led to production of exemplary films in Iran’s film industry.

Abdul-Hussein Sepanta, the director of the first Iranian sound film, is the first Iranian filmmaker, who turned to making films based on literary works. In the year 1935, he made the film “Shirin and Farhad”. The theme of this film revolves round an individual named Farhad, who is fond of a princess named Shirin. Farhad makes every effort to marry Shirin. This theme is based on a poem by the prominent Iranian poet, Nezami Ganjavi. In addition to directing this film, Sepanta plays the role of Farhad in this cinematic work.

Two years later, Sepanta made another film named “Leyli and Majnoun” based on another poem of the Iranian well-known poet, Nezami Ganjavi.

Following the production of these cinematic works, Iranian directors turned to making films based on novels and tales. Meanwhile, a few Iranian films were made based on well-established global literary works. Overall, as of the year 1930 to 2010, more than 3,000 Iranian films have been made, out of which fifty films have been based on non-Iranian literary works.

In the pre-revolution era, literary works from foreign authors such as William Shakespeare, Alexander Dumas, Mark Twain, Daphne du Maurier, and Fyodor Dostoevsky were more welcomed by Iranian screenwriters.

Upon the victory of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in the year 1979, a new generation of directors entered Iran’s film industry and the outlook toward literature relatively changed. The first theme which drew the attention of these Iranian directors was the injustices imposed by Shah’s despotic regime on people, especially the disadvantaged strata, and the disclosure of the real nature of the former ousted regime of Shah.

The Iranian film critic, Dr. Hussein Paayandeh, says the films based on literary works are successful if they truly transform the written texts into a cinematic work.

The film “Captain Khorshid” has been made by Naser Taqvai, and is based on the novel “To Have and Have Not”, penned by Ernest Hemingway. Taqvai has in fact adopted an Iranian version of the novel “To Have and Have Not”.

The novel “To Have and Have Not” is about a fishing boat captain who runs contraband between Cuba and Florida. He rents his boat to well-off Americans and takes them to sea for fishing. One day, one of these Americans leaves this fishing boat captain without paying him his rent. To make ends meet, the fishing boat captain promises a group to take them to the US coastlines. Later on, in a clash with Customs Office officials, his hand is cut. Furthermore, he is killed throughout a scuffle between the passengers.

The precise understanding of Taqvai of the locals and geography of southern Iran, and his skills in authoring scripts and directing films, in addition to the excellent performances of the cast of the film “Captain Khorshid”, turned this cinematic work into a blockbusting movie.

Many of those, who have read the novel and have watched the film “Captain Khorshid”, believe that the atmosphere of the film is very close to what they have felt while reading Hemingway’s novel.

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