Here One Does Not Die

Here One Does Not Die poster

Here One Does Not Die tells a story of private solider who must watch oil pipes on Iran-Iraq borderline alone for a month.

The film opens with the longshot of horseshoe road with two men on a buzzing motorcycle noise heading to the watch post. While telling a film story, Ghasem (Reza Behbudi) take Ashkan (Houman Seyyedi) to a one-room shelter. Ghasem is worried about his wife’ mental health and thinks the baby heals the pain. The observation post is in a remote mountainous area empty of any humans but some wolves. Ashkan has to keep his eyes open for smugglers who hit the pipe at night.

Here one does not die film
Horseshoe Road

One fine day, he sees a girl, Rojin, down below on the green covered flat land carrying stuff to a stony house. Quickly gets on his motorcycle, Ashkan approaches her and asks about her business there. The girl (Bahar Katozi) replies that she is just living in here. As a part of duty, he reports about her presence in the area to Ghasem.

Rojan (a Kurdish name means “shining”) keeps visiting Ashkan day and night to bring some food and have small chitchat. One day Ashkan tries to pay her a visit to her home, but Rojin rebuffs him angrily and asks him to leave. Ashkan becomes suspicious that she might be in cahoots with smugglers. His worry grows when she calls him by his first name over having some food the next day. Ashkan never remembers telling his name to Rojin. Slowly and slowly Ashkan’s state of mind begins to break.

Here One Does Not Die 2016
Ashkan is sharing his secret with Ghasem (Reza Behbudi)

He loses the date and day of the week. On an occasion when Ghasem is back to bring some food and water for him, Ghasem tells that his wife needs to see a doctor because he saw her playing with the dolls.  However, Ashkan refuses his idea and advises him not to do.

The doctors will bother her. They will do something that she forgets everything…I have been with them [Doctors]……I have seen something and somebodies that seemingly did not exist. Only I see them.  

One night he sees some men near the oil pipe through the binoculars. He reports to Ghasem and when Ghasem checks the situation he couldn’t find any evidence. Smoking heavily day in and day out, Ashkan cannot trust his mind anymore.  Through a series of flashback, we see Ashkan on a wheelchair of what appears to be an asylum. To stay focused and get rids of voices he hears, he tries to remember his events of his life by talking loudly to himself. However, it appears futile because Rojin keeps coming back to his loading. In a daring act, after seeing a man near the oil line, he gets into the house of Rojin with his finger on the trigger. Rojin begs him to leave the house immediately before they show up. As he was asking about the men, a door opens and a man enters. Ashkan pulls the trigger and shoots the man dead. Together, they dig a hole and bury the corpse. In an internal monologue, we hear that Ashkan tells himself that “This woman is unreal. I should not get close to women.  

Here One Does Not Die 2016 Iran Cinema
Ashkan (Houman Seyyedi) & Rojin (Bahar Katozi)

Waking up next day on his bed, he sees the dead man he buried smoking cigarette alive before his eyes, only injured in left ear. He warns him not meddle with his business because he has no intention of killing a private solider. After giving a pocket of cigarette, he tries to threaten Ashkan by choking him with his hands. He then leaves quickly. That night Ashkan saw a group of men show up at Rojin house and carry a dead body wrapped in rug. He picks a shovel and quickly runs to the burial place of dead man. To his surprise, there was no corpse. He goes on the verge of collapse and passes out on open space when Ghasem comes announcing that his watch is over. While carrying Ashkan on his back, he begins to narrate a story;

There was a fast sleeper boy who sleeps when the situation comes up. Once he slept at 20:00 and woke up at 12:00 noon tomorrow. He said that he went boating. On the other day, he slept for two entire days. He went boating again. But, one night we he fell asleep, instead of boating, the water pulled him down. He went down like a stone. A week passed. Three months passed. Ten years passed. The boy realized that he is asleep. He tried to scream, but he couldn’t. One day while his mother was playing with his hair, he saw that his boy was staring at her with open eyes. He woke up, but he felt like a boy who is trapped in the body of a grown-up man.

Ghasem carries Ashkan on his back to the motorcycle. Here One Does Not Die ends with the same horseshoe road with two of them on the motorcycle.  

Kondori’s Comment on Film

Hossein Kondori in his news conference at Fajr Film Festival said that at the begging the name of the film was “Zero Point Border”, but later changed into “Here One Does Not Die”. He introduced his film as a psychic drama and believed that from the second half of the film “an analytical point of view dominates the film” which make the audience to think more about the film. Regarding the cinematography of the film, Kondori states that Here One Does Not Die is the first film in Iran which was shot with Blackmagic URSA camera. He added that from the begging he had Houman Seyyedi as the main role, but he faced difficulty to convince him for the role. However, at the end, he talked him into it.

Hossein Kondori
Hossein Kondori, the director

Here One Does Not Die Film Review

Hossein Kondori, a young Iranian filmmaker, goes against the mainstream cinema of Iran to make a film on a psychic private. His narrative of a mentally ill person brings to mind films like Beautiful Mind where the protagonist sees unreal fictional characters. Unlike the John Nash, the protagonist is a soldier dealing with the unknown intruding woman who occupies and unbalances his soul and mind.

Here One Does Not Die
Ashkan in Observation Post

 Since that the director never shares Ashkan’s past experience with the audience and from the exchanging words between the characters, particularly Ashkan’s internal monologue, it is likely that Ashkan’s problem originates from the “presence of woman” of any kind in his life. As long as he is within male presence, he is sound and sensible. But, as soon as a Rojin appears his mind goes numb. In a revealing internal monologue, he points out that he should not get close to this woman, Rojin.

To support my perspective, I would like to pay attention to the Ghasem’s wife. His wife is playing with dolls like a kid and he thinks that making her pregnant will exorcise her illness. In fact, we never hear Ghasem’s wife side of story nor Rojin one. We see the world from the two male characters. In Here One Does Not Die, what we see is a male-centered world where women are either trouble-maker like Rojin or mentally ill like Ghasem’s wife.   

Here One Does Not Die Film Location

The setting of the film is on Iran-Iraq borderline in Kurdish area of Iran. However, the film was shot in Rineh and its surrounding area near Mount. Damavand.

Iran film location
Rineh, Amol County, Mazandaran
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