Circumstance is a fascinating drama that looks at how a loving family in Iran falls apart under a repressive Islamic fundamentalist regime. The story is a mix of Deepa Mehta’s Fire (1996) and the German film The Lives of Others (2006) by Florian Hanckel von Donnersmarck.
Told through the eyes of the young free spirited, fun loving daughter of a liberal, well-educated family of professors living in Tehran, Iran, it tells the story of a budding romance between the daughter and her best friend, and how Islamic fundamentalists infiltrate the family through an East German style Stasi spy system.
I liked everything about this film; the beautiful poetic, dreamy visual style and pace of the film, the realistically well drawn characters, the excellent cast who are natural and totally believable and the eerie Orwellian big brother feeling that pervades the film with surveillance camera footage.
This film really opened my eyes to the oppression of not only women and youth but also how everyone in a radical Islamic state is affected by the restrictions placed on people’s freedoms. A young girl’s coming of age and love for her beautiful girl friend is shattered when her older brother, a recovering addict, lost and unable to find work as a musician, is indoctrinated into the fundamentalist Islamic faith and joins the morality police. Betraying his friends and family by spying on them, he turns them into the police to serve his own purposes, destroying the family’s liberal haven in a repressive totalitarian state.
This Sundance Audience Choice award winning film is at times very sensual and gives us a look into the underground youth culture in Iran. I thought this was a very engaging, mesmerizing and thought provoking film that touched on many issues.
First time director Maryam Keshavarz has based the film on her own real experiences while living in Iran and has powerfully recreated the oppressive atmosphere of people living in fear of the state.
Other excellent films that deal with this subject matter in Iran include Persepolis (2007) by Marjane Satrapi and Ten (2002) by Abbas Kiarostami.