Country of Origin:
Farsi 1.0 Mono
The School That Was Blown Away and Images from the Qajar Dynasty two short films by Mohsen Makhmalbaf , Interview excerpt with Farrokhzad's sister Pooran and Cine-Notes Booklet
The House is Black is a brief, startling, glimpse into first heartbeat of Iranian New Wave cinema, directed by one of Iran’s most famous female poets, Forough Farrokhzad. All but eschewing traditional narration, it shows the lives, suffering and treatment of lepers in Iran in 1962, whilst Farrokhzad reads her own poem over the stark black and white images.
During its’ brief 22 minute length, the hideous progression of leprosy in men, women and children of all ages is shown in unflinching detail, as the few fragments of actual subtitled narration make clear that leprosy erodes the skin the flesh then the bone of it’s sufferers. The comments and behaviour of some of those afflicted, also make it clear that their minds are equally damaged by the terrible, visible onslaught of leprosy.
The power and the simplicity of the images coupled with the words of the poem hold an extraordinary lens up to a small pocket of forgotten history. While Iran struggled to modernise and it’s first intellectual groups struggled against the old order – even though still afflicted by what many in the west would have regarded as a Biblical disease, from the deep past.
The Iranian New Wave of cinema which has slowly come to light through the work of Mohsen Makhmalbaf and the international acclaim of Abbas Kiarostami was in it’s infancy with this film, but the familiar trademarks of child-like wonder and an unflinching view of the world are present in this all-but forgotten short film. Tragically, five years later, its’ director died in a car crash as she swerved to avoid a school-bus, leaving only her poems and this short film as her legacy.
The accompanying booklet includes short essays and appreciations by noted cine-luminary Chris Marker of ‘La Jeteé/12 Monkeys’ fame as well as Facet Videos in house guru Susan Doll and film critic Jonathon Rosenbaum. The extras include two short films by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, which are interesting curios, but without the power of Farrokhzad’s ‘The House is Black’. Of more interest is the excerpt from PBS’s television special Adventure Divas: Iran where Farrokhzad’s sister Pooran reads from her sisters’ work.
For anyone with even a cursory appreciation of Iranian and New-Wave cinema, this is an essential DVD that will bear repeated viewings to appreciate its clarity and its cinematic and verbal poetry.
The resonating sadness of ‘The House is Black’ is that the first line of the film is as true today as it was in Farrokhzad’s time:
“There is no shortage of ugliness in the world”