Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ehsan Mirhosseini, Shaghayegh Shourian, Kaveh Ahangar, Alireza Zareparast, Salar Khamseh, Kaveh Ebrahim, Pouya Mehri, Darya Moghbeli, Mahtab Servati, Mohammad Valizadegan, Mohammad Seddighimehr, Jila Shahi, Baran Rasoulof
Written by: Mohammad Rasoulof
Directed by: Mohammad Rasoulof
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Persian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 150
Date: 05/14/2021

There Is No Evil (2021)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Wrongful Deaths

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof (Iron Island, The White Meadows) achieves an act of defiance with this brave film, which had to be smuggled out of Iran. With a cool head and careful storytelling, it criticizes the country's barbaric practice of forcing men serving their two years of mandatory military service to assist in executions. There Is No Evil consists of four stories, and the first one alone is a masterpiece, a shattering tale that lulls us with the banal before unleashing its savageness. The second tale takes place late at night, depicting a man desperately trying to escape his execution duty the following morning. The third tells the story of a man who gets a three-day pass to see his girlfriend for her birthday, only to arrive just in time for a funeral. And the fourth sees a country doctor at the end of his life trying to make up for past mistakes during a visit from his niece. Rasoulof's patient, painterly compositions have a way of getting at the interior horrors of this situation while avoiding any direct commentary (no executions are shown, and no military authority figures appear). The final two stories might have been cut down for more impactful endings; they tend to drift off into too much talk and analysis, and we definitely feel every one of the movie's 150 minutes, but it's still a must-see.

Kino Lorber's DVD release (no Blu-ray so far) includes 5.1 and 2.0 audio mixes, optional English subtitles, and trailers for this and several other Kino Lorber titles. It's a bare-bones disc, to be sure, but still highly recommended.

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