About Elly Screen 17 articles

About Elly

2009

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  • While not equaling the depth of characterization of Farhadi’s previous films, “About Elly” takes the complexity of his storytelling to a fascinating level. However, the variable quality of the thesping also prevents the pic from being his best work.

  • Easy to see why the Berlin jury gave Farhadi their Best Damn Filmatist prize—not only does he have superlative camera sense, but he's working in a complex, highly choreographed Altmanesque mode that resembles nothing else coming out of Iran (for Western import, anyway)... Then an Event occurs, at which point About Elly abruptly metamorphoses into a completely different and considerably odder entity, both formally and sociologically.

  • If, on the whole, we are living in an era of cinema where the rule-changing audacity of a film like L'Avventura comes around far less frequently than back then, About Elly, like its fellow companions 35 rhums and Silent Light, show us that we are living in an era of cinema that is far from forgetting the monuments of the past, and can still find something alive and re-vitalizing in them to this very day.

  • It’s of a piece with Farhadi’s aversion to ‘force-feeding’ his audience that, apart from a plangent ‘Song for Elly’ over the final credits, he makes no use of music to direct the mood of the action, relying instead on script, lighting, camera technique and the skills of his ensemble cast to convey what he intends.

  • I like Farhadi’s movies quite a lot. They’re arithmetically moral. Every choice adds up — or, given the tragedies under his belt, subtracts. But he prefers characters to explain what the camera — what his camera, anyway — cannot. Here and in his most recent, most ornate film, The Past, this leads to a blitz of last-minute exposition and confessions that are engrossing on the one hand and somewhat inadequate on the other.

  • The film lacks any non-diegetic music, so Farsi banter and crashing waves predominate on the soundtrack, and editing instills the film with anxious rhythms. A white lie daisy chain unravels amid gendered debates over etiquette, all of it incisive, all of it banal.

  • In the latter stages of this nightmare, a few of the characters - the men, mostly - begin acting in ways - towards the women, mostly - that may have some western viewers taking a step or two back away from that just-like-us commitment they've likely made in the first hour. That's the challenge I find most fascinating in "About Elly," a challenge well worth grappling with.

  • One could dub this “The Iranian L’Avventura”; like Antonioni’s film it uses a woman’s disappearance to expose the nature of those left searching for her... Shot in conventional handheld but well performed, the film suggests a post-Kiarostami Iranian cinema capable of achieving much within a mainstream idiom.

  • Screaming out loud for fun in a road tunnel, flying a kite on the beach, and just the exhilaration of being fit and young and happy with one's life and one's friends – it's heady stuff and wonderfully shot in verité style. It feels like reality we are watching, while also looking like a perfectly choreographed dance. So when a disaster happens, things begin to unravel, and a secret about Elly known only to Sepideh begins to surface, it hits the audience that much harder.

  • It’s easy to see About Elly as a film criticising the culture of deception in Iranian society, but Farhadi keeps such political commentary as subtext. First and foremost, his film is a gripping human drama, one that poses serious moral questions while challenging our preconceptions at every turn.

  • What is it that sets Farhadi apart? I would say that one of the things is his patience. This is where he is in line with Ibsen, who carefully and meticulously set up the extenuating circumstances of his plays: here are the people, here is what they do for a living, here is their world, here is how they operate in “peaceful times.” We need all that information given to us, so that when the crisis comes, we can see the edifice cracking, the building falling once the structure loses its stability.

  • In theory, this sounds stiflingly thematic, but Farhadi, after only a handful of films, is already a master of physicalizing politics, of enfolding cultural constrictions into the texture of the actors' movements within their setting. These gifts are on particular display in the film's incredible central set piece, which involves a near drowning that belatedly sets the plot in motion.

  • The pace accelerates [when Elly goes missing] and the web of evasions and lies becomes as compelling as in any great suspense movie. We might not care about any of the characters—it’s doubtful that Farhadi wants us to—but it’s difficult to escape the implication that their situation reflects that of their entire society and, in many ways, our own.

  • Farhadi is a masterful director of actors, and here he gets a range of precise, vivid performances from a cast that also includes Golshifteh Farahani, Peyman Moadi (“A Seperation”), Mani Haghighi and Shahab Hosseini. It might be argued that Farhadi doesn’t have any grand message, or “world vision” as he puts it. But to me, his way of revivifying cinema, and connecting its spaces to those of human hearts and minds, is vision aplenty.

  • This superb ensemble drama, nearly the equal of Farhadi’s Oscar-winning “A Separation,” must be seen, but with as little prior knowledge as possible. Farhadi and his editor Hayedeh Safiyari are masters of withholding information until the suspense becomes almost unbearable. “About Elly” shows that the ethical dilemmas of ordinary adults can, with this level of talent, become as gripping as any thriller.

  • About Elly (Darbareye Elly), one of Farhadi’s true masterpieces, was lauded at the time of its release in 2009 and re-appraised further in 2011 and 2012 following the success of A Separation. And rightly so: the film... is a tightly structured screenplay subtly critical of that tier in society, operating within a Hitchcockian narrative logic, framed and shot with rarefied vision, and following a taut, kinetic rhythm.

  • ...I’ll suggest here that Farhadi’s conceptual parameters are even broader, drawing not only on blue-chip cinematic touchstones, but also on a classic of British literature. If About Elly reimagines Antonioni’s film, it also offers – somewhat like Amy Heckerling’s Clueless – a loose retelling of Jane Austen’s great novel Emma.

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