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With: Shahla Yadegarpour, Behnaz Jafari, Ahmad Reza Ahmadi (narrators)
Written by: Nasser Saffarian
Directed by: Nasser Saffarian
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Farsi with English subtitles
Running Time: 152
Date: 19/03/2013

The Mirror of the Soul: The Forough Farrokhzad Trilogy (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Someone Who Is Not Like Anyone

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The great Iranian poet and filmmaker Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967) certainly could use a documentary, if for nothing else than to introduce her to Western audiences, but The Mirror of the Soul: The Forough Farrokhzad Trilogy, newly released on DVD by Facets, only fitfully performs the job. Shot in three sections, the first talks about Farrokhzad's life and untimely death in an auto accident at age 32. The second deals with her published work, often very personal and even sexual, and its affect on Iranian culture, and the third -- the shortest -- takes on her great 1962 film The House Is Black. The film mainly consists of talking heads (all Persian) ranging from Farrokhzad's friends and family (including her delightful mother) to colleagues and critics. The documentary includes generous snippets from her poetry, photographs and clips from her films -- as well as interviews with the beautiful Farrokhzad herself, shot by Bernardo Bertolucci -- but there are two major problems. The Mirror of the Soul is too formulaic to do justice to such a beloved and passionate poet, and although director Nasser Saffarian attempts to make his interviews more "visual," these attempts (such as oddly framed interviews with Farrokhzad's brother) sometimes come across as desperate. The main problem, however is that the translation and subtitling are quite distracting. Interviewees sometimes talk with no translation at all, and the English subtitles are badly in need of editing. One time the subtitles actually spell Farrokhzad's name incorrectly. Sometimes the translations simply come out differently; for example the film title The House is Black comes out here as "The House Is Dark." Since Facets is distributing both titles, you'd think they would want a little consistency. All these complaints aside, however, it's great to have even a little information on this inspirational poet. (If only some her books were in print in English.) Abbas Kiarostami's son, Bahman Kiarostami -- himself a budding filmmaker -- worked as an editor on this.

The DVD release includes a liner notes booklet with an entry by famed French filmmaker Chris Marker.

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