The Deer

English Title: The Deer

Original Title: Gavaznha

Country of Origin: Iran

Studio: Misaghieh Studio

Director: Masoud Kimiai

Producer(s): Mehdi Misaghieh

Screenplay: Masoud Kimiai

Cinematographer: Nemat Haghighi

Editor: Abbas Ganjavi

Runtime: 115 minutes

Starring/Cast: Enayat Bakhshi, Parvin Soleimani, Mahboobeh Bayat, Parviz Fanizadeh, Faramarz Gharibian, Mastaneh Jazayeri, Manoochehr Naderi, Nosrat Partovi, Saeid Pirdoost, Garsha Ra'oofi, Behrouz Vosoughi

Year: 1974

Volume: Iranian

Qodrat, wounded and tired, goes to an old neighbourhood in the southern part of Tehran. He enters his former high school to look up his old friend, Seyed. Seyed's father, who is the janitor of the high school, tells him that Seyed sells tickets in a theatre in the Lalezar neighbourhood. Qodrat goes there and finds out that the athlete of his schooldays has turned into a miserable addict. Qodrat asks Seyed to hide him out in his house. Qodrat lives with an actress of the theatre, called Fati.

The seventh film of the well-known and popular film-maker of pre-revolutionary Iran, Masoud Kimiai, is certainly one of his best works. It is also considered to be the point of intersection between the ideals of communism and religious totalitarianism which turned into a revolution against the monarchical regime of Iran. The emphasis on the painted portrait of the first Imam of Iranian Shiites on the wall of Seyed's (played by Behrouz Vosouqi) room (the symbol of the exhausted power of mass) and his drinking scene with Qodrat (played by Faramarz Qaribian) (the symbol of armed rebellion by the communists) while wearing glasses (which constitute his ideological uniform) functions just like the famous symbol of the film's title credits; a dandelion crossing through the barbed wires. All this indicates a social conflict which has become integrated with the director's favourite subject; revenge.
Seyed represents the ignorant working class and is thoroughly under the influence of Qodrat, who is wiser and more of a seeker than he. Seyed is a drug addict and his friend Qodrat is wounded and on the run. Seyed reveals his rebelliousness and his conscious transformation by the way of sudden reactions, such as killing a drug dealer or beating his oppressive landlord (who are both symbols of the ruling puppet government and would certainly fall under the radar of social awareness of the average 1970s Iranian audience).
In a restricted society a popular film is one which portrays realities, and in its general sense, reality has often been limited to portraying the life of the working class in this society. In The Deer, setting and acting obey the same rule. The sense of contempt and submissiveness of different walks of life in the form of those tenants at Seyed's house who compare their landlord with the killer of  Shiite's third Imam (an embodiment of innocence in Iranian culture) also manifests itself in the affluent  who distribute meat among the  dwellers of poor neighbourhoods, even without stepping out of their car. Heroic adoration is one of Kimiai's favourite themes in characterization and leads to a combination of a ‘western movie’ style of comradeship with the ‘socio-realism’ of 1970s Iran, and tries for the poor and pro-justice heroes, just like in George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), to be remembered by his viewers as living tragic heroes.
In Kimiai's film, happiness could be reached only under the patronage of comradeship and tragedy. A young girl leaves her wretched house with hope of having a better future, but on her wedding day finds out that the groom is suffering from epilepsy. Qodrat as the representative of the audience’s conscience becomes the eyewitness to this event through the window of Seyed's room.
The film’s success at the box office and its pleasant socio-message for Iranian society overshadows the deficiency in storytelling and also the fact of Seyed's transformation in only a few minutes. The film was equally praised by both intellectuals and ordinary people. Behrooz Vossoughi was awarded Best Actor at the ‘Tehran International Film Festival’, but the film’s producer and director were summoned to the security and information organization (SAVAK) and the version shown to the public was censored. However, this event helped to increase the popularity of the movie. In the original version, Qodrat buries his gun in a pot (as a symbol of transferring their battle to the next generation) and clearly alludes to the idea of fighting the police force as the representatives of the regime in power. One of the most important points in the success of The Deer could be because of the film-maker's recognition of the typical Iranian viewer and the overcoming of his emotions and beliefs.
Seyed's constant begging to his pusher and also to a theatre actor for letting him show his power against Fati are scenes which instil great empathy with him from the viewer. Feelings of nostalgia are similarly provoked when Qodrat and Seyed go out drinking together. The epic and idealistic death of both heroes is considered to be the manifestation of the ideal of political activists in Iran three decades ago. Seyed is not a dying drug addict anymore but an avenger who seeks awareness and prefers to die at his home along with his friend in a shootout by the police, and at that very moment of choice and salvation, a pigeon sits on his shoulder. Qodrat is not a bank robber either but a communist militant fighting for justice.
As with Kimiai’s previous works, the screenplay has been made up of pieces of a story which lack coherency (the scenes of Mohammad’s appearance in the movie or Qodrat's dialogues about Seyed's knife, or the scenes of punching the wall are exaggerated and undramatic slogans). Between leaving an emotional impression on the viewer and close-up shooting, the director follows the first tendency and Nemat Haghighi's cinematography is light in movement, especially in Seyed  and Qodrat's conversations which seem to be at a loose end. (The crane shots in Seyed's plain room are too exaggerated for such a realistic film that so successfully portrays poverty.) The film’s melodic music by Esfandiar Monfaredzadeh and the well-known composition of ‘Gonjeshkake Ashimashi’ seems to be sufficient for complimenting emotions in this politically realistic melodrama which brings tears to the eyes of Iranians longing for words like justice and comradeship.

Author of this review: Saeed Aghighi