Ten Little Indians, aka, And Then There Were None was filmed in pre-Revolution Iran by Peter Collinson. The setting of the film is quite tricky. The first shot of the film shows two important monuments in Iran, Persepolis and Shah Mosque in the middle of desert.
Then the film cuts to the deserted ruins of Persepolis while we hear a gust of wind sound. Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of Achaemenid Empire in 5th century BC.
Shah Mosque, Isfahan
After that, the film jumps to the Shah Mosque. As the camera moves down, we see Elsa Marino (played by Maria Rohm), the female servant of the hotel in a white blouse with sunglasses on, waiting for arrival of the doomed guests.
As she is looking at the open desert before her, the tile of the films appears. So did the credit.
The pre-credit sequence and the post-credit of Ten Little Indians is the fruit of editors’ sleight of hand. I mean that, the editors put Persepolis and Shah Mosque, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Iran, next to each other which geographically speaking is not right. Shah Mosque is in Isfahan while Persepolis is in Shiraz. The editors reduce the nearly 500 kilometers to almost 30 meters.
Shah Abbasi Hotel, Isfahan
That is not the end. There is more to it. Since Ten Little Indians is an adaptation from Agatha Christie whodunit novel, the director decides to set his film in an isolated place to emphasize its enigmatic atmosphere. So, we see the mysterious hotel in a middle of a nowhere next to the Persepolis ruins. It is not the end of the story. As the ill-fated guests enter the mysterious hotel, the viewers witness shots of Hotel Abbasi Isfahan that is one kilometer away from the entrance of Shah Mosque or New Abbasi Mosque before.
So, the opening of the Ten Little Indians is as weird as the story itself. Click here for Ten Little Indians film review.
The Middle East has been struggling with wars for the past
60 years. Daily news on the Middle East particularly Lebanon is an inevitable
fact. I am living kilometers away in Tehran, Iran. I am safe here, despite all
the prejudice and political-oriented news broadcasted on Western TVs. However,
I can’t suppress my anger for war and all the bloodshed and injustice inside
and outside of my country.
Iran states television channels broadcast Arab refuges in
Syria and Iraq. People are getting used to seeing these violent images which is
a huge regret. Human being is getting to see another of his own kind losing his
home or getting hurt or killed on daily basis. Was Nietzsche right when he
cried out “God is Dead?” Because it seems the world is moving toward the dark
valley. But, every now and then, one seems to seek a lightness and hope out of
this miserable world. This time Nadine Labaki, the renown Lebanese actress orchestrated
this optimistic perspective.
Nadine Labaki in her new film, Capernaum, delves into the
lives of the miserable in ghettos of Lebanon and their struggle to survive. Arial
shots of shantytown and children’s smoking and playing with plastic and wooden
guns in a slow motion, as the gloomy music is on, is the entry of viewers into
the world of Capernaum. An overview of the shabby streets filled with garbage
and car tires on the roofs from the up looks like an earth with a small black
holes. The camera zooms out and a district appears. All in a unicolor of khaki,
without a single bright colors.
Philosophical Perspective of Capernaum
Zain El Hajj is shown on courtroom sentenced to five-year
prison for stabbing which really surprised me. But, what came after, to be
honest, was a real shock. He sued his parents for bringing him into the world!
His question has a philosophical perspective. It questions the concept of the “choice” which a child, a human being, has no control over it. He didn’t ask for it and yet he is paying the tolls. A Heavy one. Isn’t it unfair? If parents can’t afford any things for their kids, why they are breeding so many? Zain asks for the great measure. Zain’s father, Selim, played by Fadi Kamel Youssef, revealed in the courtroom that his upbringing thought him that his children would support him when they grow up. This is what life is. This deep-rooted attitude is widespread in the entire Middle East. Parents in Iran has the same notion and expectation. One has always expected something for doing something. However, in the modern world, where life is getting hard and harder every day, parents shouldn’t have a second thought on having a baby?
As a subplot for Zain life, we see a mother fighting for life, too. Tigest Ailo (Playing by Yordanos Shiferaw) the illegal Ethiopian refugee in Lebanon has a huge difficulty with keeping his cute son under such a harsh circumstance.
Having impersonated herself as an Rahil, she works illegally in a restaurant to make ends meet. After leaving home, Zain met Tigest in restaurant in an amusement park. She keeps his baby in a women’s toilet to keep her job. Her house is nothing but a space walled with layers of tins. Zian, reluctantly, became her babysitter. He had no choice. Cut the long story short, police finally arrest her for carrying forged resident document and put her in the most notorious jail in Beirut, Roumieh Prison. A space which later on Zain joined as well. Zain stabbed his brother-in-law because of killing his beloved sister, Sahar, acted by Cedra Izam, after getting her pregnant. She was only eleven years old. She couldn’t bear a child at that age.
Never Lose Hope
Zain, despite his naivety, fights to the ends. While he was
living at home, he was working hard. When he left home heartbroken, he took
care of Rahil’s son, Yonas. Once he tempted to leave Yonas next to street, but
his consciousness didn’t allow him. As the pressure became unbearable, and
dreaming of travelling to Sweden got into his mind by Maysoun, a Syrian refugee
(Played by young Farah Hasno) manipulated by Aspro (Alaa Chouchnieh), the
forger of the documents, he finally succumbed. He sold Yonas to get the money
for his travel to Sweden.
All in all, Zain’s struggle in this dark world is admirable. So does Nadine Labaki’s creation of this touching tale. The film is a real food for thought. I highly recommend it to film lovers and movie buffs.
One more thing. When I heard that Zain is now living in Norway and going to school like other kids, it became happy. I hope all kids would be able to have proper upbringing so we could have a better world.
If one could choose a major recurrent theme in Ingmar Bergman’s
film, that would be, undoubtedly, a troubled psyche. Bergman has been exploring
the human psyche from the very beginning of his film career which lasted for nearly
six decades. His mastery over probing the deep layers of human’s soul has
greatly influenced the American filmmakers, particularly David Lynch.
David Lynch has repeatedly acknowledged Bergman as one of his
favorite filmmakers of all time; however, it seems it is more than that. Being
known for his weird, eerie dreamlike films, Lynch, too, shows an immense
enthusiasm in digging up the soul and mind of his fictional characters. Of
course, this soul reaching is rooted in his what he figuratively calls is fish
catching, “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay
in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go
deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and
abstract. And they’re very beautiful.” Lynch, similar to Bergman, attempts to
push his bottom where repressed desires and malicious darkness lie. Therefore,
reading Lynch through a Bergmanesque filter will contribute to an expanded
understanding of Lynch’s aesthetics and visual and thematic proximity of these
two great filmmakers.
Bergman’s influence upon Lynch is so substantial and profound that
one could claim that Lynch is the surrogate figure of Bergman in American
cinema, but much darker and more sinister. Exploring the disquieting side of
psyche of both his characters and their dwelling town, Lynch attempts to show
the hidden layers of American life, borrowing Roland Bathes’ idea of
demystification, he demystifies the American dream and reveals its hideous and
Mulholland Drive could be taken as a greatest
reverence of Lynch towards Bergman. There are several similarities between Mulholland
Drive and Persona.
Persona is a psychological
drama revolving around the relationship between two women, Elizabeth Vogler and
Alma. The former is a successful actress who is hospitalized for a nervous
breakdown with symptoms of “muteness and a near catatonic lassitude” and the
latter is the pretty young nurse who is in charge of her care. These two
characters through some mysterious process exchange identities. The issue of
identity crisis and transformation also echo in Mulholland Drive,
an amnesiac brunette (Laura Harring) and an aspirational blonde (Naomi Watts)
with shifting identities. Bergman displayed the mysterious identities of his
characters in two ways. The first is through the mirror exercise where the
initiator and responding character is almost impossible to pin down and the
second one is the metamorphosis, a process of transformation of the characters.
The idea of flux identity is similarly expressed in Lynch’s film. The wounded
and traumatized brunette who is unable to remember anything including her name
_ after taking shower she picked up a name, Rita, from the poster of Rita
Hayworth on the bathroom wall through the mirror shot. Later in the film, Betty
put on a blonde wig on Rita’s head in front of the bathroom’s mirror and then
said “You look like someone else”. It seems that Betty perpetually provides
identity for Rita and she passively adopts it. The question of identity reaches
its climax after the lovemaking of Rita and Betty in bed. It’s where Lynch
imitates what Bergman did in Persona: merging the faces of the two female characters
in one shot. Unification of the faces of characters in these two films is
considered a really important turning point of narratives.
After Rita and Betty visual and
physical coupling, they enter into a mysterious club known as “Club Silencio”
where the Magician performs on stage. The show is all an illusion, La Grande
Illusion ever! The world where living, Betty, and the dead, Rita, are so close
to each there that is impossible to distinguish which is which. Betty’s
trembling in the club is an exact echo of what the magician, Albert Emanuel
Vogler played by Max von Sydow, did in The Magician (1958), “He
calls you down, he calls you forth, beyond the dead, the living, the living
dead.” Rita, Betty and the Club Silencio
are the precise reflection of these concept, respectively.
Surrealism of Mulholland Drive
could be traced back to the weird visual and narrative composition of Hour
of the Wolf (1968). Mulholland Drive could be separated
into two parts: Betty’s dream and after her waking up. So does the Hour of
Wolf. The first part is quite realistic, whereas the second part is filled with
surrealism qualities which is the reflection of the disturbed psyche of the protagonist. Painter Johan Borg (von Sydow) is haunted by
demons and images of his former lover, Veronica Vogler (Ingrid Thulin). Parallel
plot could be found in Lynch’s film and narrative. Betty is an artist like the
Johan Borg and her life is haunted by her former lover, Rita, who left her to
joined the young director, Adam Kesher (Played by Justin Theroux). Projection
of demons and wild beasts in Hour of the Wolf corresponds with
the weird characters of Lynch’s film such as the dead man behind the café which
through the technique of surrealism could be best pieced together.
Given these facts, Lynch is the heir to the
psychic world of the Bergman ’worldview in America. The green light of the
American dream which beckoned J. Gatsby is now turned into a green-eyed
troubled spirit feeding upon itself and its surrounding world. Betty, the
broken doll of dream factory of Hollywood, encounters the rotten soul of
Hollywood and by her own volition she walks beside it, hire a hitman to kill
her ex-lover and in the end, commits suicide herself. While the troubled psyche
of Bergman’s characters is the result of lack of spirituality and faith, the
characters of Lynch’s films are not related to any spiritual metaphysics, in a
sense they are the victims of the larger rotten dream, a dream that in the end
reveals itself to be nothing but a dreadful nightmare.