Shot in Chile and prefaced by a quotation from German poet Paul Celan, this Spanish-language debut from Iranian writer-director Alireza Khatami has, viewed from one perspective, a universality that should help it connect with admirers of a sensibility that could loosely be termed ‘magic realist’. From a different angle, however, the difficulty of attaching this pensive fable to any geographical or historical specifics makes it feel frustratingly elusive.
It seems Khatami originally wanted to make the film in Iran but couldn’t get permission, so the Chilean setting was a second choice. This knowledge perhaps opens Oblivion Verses to unfair scrutiny, but I think it explains its formal inconsistencies. Khatami’s resuscitation effort is indeed admirable, but noble intentions do not necessarily equal enlightenment.
Blending elements of magical realism, political strife and Kafkaesque ennui to partially satisfying effect, Oblivion Verses (Los Versos del Olvido) marks an intriguing if rather elusive feature debut for Iranian writer-director Alireza Khatami.