A Light in the Fog -- Film Review

BOTTOM LINE: A nearly perfect example of purely visual filmmaking that won't be to everyone's tastes.

Pusan International Film Festival
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The debut feature by shorts filmmaker Panahbarkhoda Rezaee, "A Light in the Fog," is another short film, one that's been expanded -- forcibly in parts -- to barely feature length. Set in a small Iranian village, the characters go through their days on autopilot and in near silence, patiently waiting for something to happen. The images create a mesmerizing tone that result in a film that's more curious than compelling.

There is always a place for Iranian films on the festival circuit, and this will be no exception, but "Fog's" esoteric nature, coma-inducing pacing and the dense (some would say static) images will keep it from even an art house release overseas.

A woman, Rana (Parivash Nazariyeh), her father and a local vendor named Rahmat are the only people that populate the murky town. The widowed old man seems to be biding his time until death, and his daughter navigates the mist hoping for the return of her lover Habib, who went off to war and hasn't been heard from since. She also is considering a marriage proposal from Rahmat, something her father wishes she will eventually accept.

There's an experimental tone to "Fog," marked by its consistent haziness. Nothing is clear to either the characters or viewers. The lantern Rana borrows from Rahmat and uses to guide her on her daily chores is a metaphor for hope -- for Habib's return among other things -- that recurs again and again in the film, an effective symbol given the overall lack of clarity of life. The film also is largely free of references to war and fundamentalism, a nice change of pace for a cinema that is traditionally quite political.

Cast: Parivash Nazariyeh, Massoud Heshmat, Behrouz Jalili.
Director/editor/production designer: Panahbarkhoda Rezaee.
Screenwriter: Hossein Saberi.
Producer: Mahmoud Fallah.
Director of photography: Alimohammad Ghasemi.
Costume designer: Reza Mohammadi.
Sales agent: Documentary & Experimental Film Center.
No rating, 73 minutes.
production: Documentary & Experimental Film Center, Zoha Films.