Sheytan vojud nadarad [There Is No Evil] (2020)

Sheytan vojud nadarad
Director: Mohammad Rasoulof
Writer: Mohammad Rasoulof
Cast: Baran Rasoulof, Mohammad Seddighimehr, Kaveh Ahangar, Mahtab Servati, Pouya Mehri, Zhila Shahi, Mohammad Valizadegan, Ehsan Mirhosseini, Salar Khamseh, Alireza Zareparast, Kaveh Ebrahim, Reza Bahrami, Parvin Maleki, Gholamhosein Taseiri, Shaghayegh Shoorian, Darya Moghbeli
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 24.10.2020

Plot:
Four stories, all set in Iran, all dealing with the death penalty and its implications in different ways. Can you be really free under a despotic regime? Can you make moral choices? And how many people will be affected by what you decide?

There Is No Evil has three (of four) very strong segments, but the last story it tells seemed to me as if it came from another film, handling another topic. Still, interesting idea and most stories are well-handled.

The film poster showing a man lying in the grass. Behind him in the distance a woman can be seen.

[Slight SPOILERS]

All four of the stories approach the death penalty from the perspective of the executioners, which I thought was a very interesting choice. For me, two segments stood out in particular. The first segment is a prime example of Arendt’s “banality of evil” (and not, if you ask me, an argument against evil as the film’s title seems to suggest), and is narratively so well structured that the less you know the better. In fact, probably even “banality of evil” is too much of a give-away (hence the spoiler warning in the beginning).

The other segment I absolutely loved was the third segment where Javad (Mohammad Valizadegan) comes to visit Na’na (Mahtab Servati). Not only was I really very much invested in those two and therefore pretty much devastated, I also liked that this segment focuses most on the victims’ perspective. That perspective was almost entirely missing in the movie. Apart from this segment, we don’t learn a single film about the executed people, they are not part of the consideration here. For me, this was the movie’s biggest fault. Yes, it’s interesting to look at the executioners as well and how they are forced (partly at least) or are able to resist, but the biggest issue with the death penalty is definitely that people are murdered– and the film loses almost complete sight of that.

Heshmat (Ehsan Mirhosseini) taking a shower.

The second segment ends on what I thought was an almost irritatingly positive note, but I enjoyed it a lot. Of course, the positivity of that ending is kind of offset by the fourth segment that makes the long-lasting consequences of resistance much clearer. But the fourth segment has problems of its own: the big conflict here doesn’t actually have anything to do with the death penalty, but with the fact that Darya (Baran Rasoulof) has been lied to all of her life. The segment was strong on its own, but it didn’t really fit with the rest of the film’s theme for me.

That it’s the last segment of a pretty long film that wouldn’t fit that well, left me wishing for a quicker ending which isn’t what the film deserved. Overall it was very strong and poses some very interesting questions, so it is well-worth seeing.

Na'na (Mahtab Servati) and Javad (Mohammad Valizadegan) leaning against a tree.

Summarizing: thoughtful and strong.

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