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The Independent Critic

Ali Nasirian, Hossein Farzi-Zadeh, Neda Pakdaman
Mohammad Rasoulof
90 Mins.
Kino International
 "Iron Island" Review 
I have no hesitation in admitting that I am not particularly familiar with Iranian cinema. That said, when I picture Iranian cinema I'm not sure I've ever pictured a film such as "Jazireh ahani," or "Iron Island" in the United States.

"Iron Island" is, above all, a testimony to the human spirit in its exploration of the everyday lives of a group of castaways living together on a weathered, slowly sinking tanker. They are led by the benevolent, compassionate yet often brutally rigid Captain Nemat (Ali Nasirian). Nemat serves as ultimate ruler, guide, counselor, advocate, etc. He handles virtually all affairs for every individual on the ship, and he does so with compassion unless he is crossed.

The film is fairly simple in its theme as we follow these individuals as they struggle to maintain their lives on this "Iron Island," then prepare to face life on land once it is determined that they simply cannot any longer live on this sinking boat.

"Iron Island" is filled with intriguing characters from Nemat to Ahmad (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh), a young man in love with a woman he is forbidden to have. The ship includes men, women, young boys and even one man in a wheelchair who operates the lift for the boat. The boat even includes a teacher for the young children.

"Iron Island" is frequently a beautiful film to behold, however, writer/director Mohammad Rasoulof is far too self-indulgent throughout the film. Quite often, camera shots linger for no apparent reason and the film's sound mix is often filled with irritating noise effects that don't match the action on the screen. Thus, for every utterly captivating movement Rasoulof offers up at least one or two self-indulgent ones.

The film is most effective in examining the resilience of the human spirit even as one's ship is sinking. One could easily make political comparisons, however, to do such would be extremely narcissistic and may even dilute the impact of the film.

Nasirian offers a strong performance as the Captain, and Farzi-Zadeh does a fine job as a rebellious young man who ultimately pays a price for defying the Captain.

The film's score is effective, but is frequently diluted by the film's other sound mix issues. The camera work, especially being so confined within the ship's setting, is appropriately grim without being hopeless.

While I'm not an expert on Iranian customs or traditions, the film felt faithful to the Iranian culture.

Ultimately, though, what should have been an incredibly powerful film ends up never quite coming together. The vision of Rasoulof is clear, however, the film falls victim to Rasoulof's self-indulgence and a script that tries too hard to make important statements and appears to become confused in its purpose by the film's halfway mark.

All this confusion means that "Iron Island" ends up lost at sea.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic