The Deserted Station

English Title: The Deserted Station

Original Title: Istgah-e Matrook

Country of Origin: Iran

Studio: Ima Film

Director: Alireza Ra'isian

Producer(s): Hosein Zandbaf

Screenplay: Kambozia Partoee

Cinematographer: Mohammad Aladpoush

Editor: Hosein Zandbaf

Runtime: 88 minutes

Starring/Cast: Leila Hatami, Nezam Manoochehri, Maliheh Nazari, Mahmood Pakniat , Mehran Rajabi

Year: 2001

Volume: Iranian

On a pilgrimage to Mashad, a couple's transportation breaks down in the middle of the desert, far from any major town. While the wife is waiting in the car, the husband, a photographer, seeks help at a nearby village and encounters a teacher who offers to help. Women and children are the only inhabitants of this strange deserted place, without any men, save the teacher. Whilst the husband and teacher go off to find a spare part in the nearest town, the wife takes over teaching lessons in the village. Before the men's return, the wife who is desperately longing for having a child, wanders in the village and tries to communicate with women and children living in the village. At the end of the day, when the car is repaired and the couple is ready to get back on the road to continue their journey, the children help to bring a new hope and life into the wife's heart.

The Deserted Station is another production of Iranian art-house cinema directed by Ali Reza Ra'isian, who is among the new generation of Iranian film-makers influenced by Kiarostami’s cinematic style. Ra'isian made this film based on a script by Kiarostami yet despite similarities on a base level, it is different to Kiarostami’s work from a thematic aspect. The film's simple story and pacing might lead an audience familiar with the Iranian cinema to assume that this is yet another insipid, talkative movie which will leave them feeling bored and exhausted by the time they leave the theatre. And while the Deserted Station does not fall short of accordance to this presumption, it nevertheless manages to tell the story in a gripping manner with a faint air of suspense and intrigue.
The film concentrates on the familiar elements and imperative features of new Iranian cinema, such as a poetic flow and documentary aesthetics. Utilization of non-professional actors for the main roles (except for that of Leila Hatami), uncertainty, ambiguity, open-ended storytelling, and in particular leaning on two peoples' dialogue for plot and character exposition, are other cinematic elements that Ra'isian borrows from Kiarostami's cinema. Leila Hatami's role in this film (for which she was granted the Best Actress award at the ‘Montreal World Film Festival’), her acting style, as well as her character’s loneliness and infertility, is reminiscent of her performance in Dariush Mehrjui’s Leila (1996).
The photographer in the film is a typical modern, urban middle-class Iranian who has not found his real identity yet and is wandering between modernism and tradition. He is not able to fix a relatively small problem without the aid of others, taking photos and useless curiosity in other's lives is the only thing he is able to accomplish. Ra'isian’s fatalistic approach is conveyed through the doomed characters of the film, such as the photographer’s wife who suffers from infertility, and the paralyzed girl in the village, as well as the dull lives of the other children in lesser part, to enhance emotional impact and aid in the portrayal of a world were people are fated to an unfortunate life.
The remote village is a cursed unknown place, motionless and undeveloped; its only visitors are travelling salespersons or those who may become stranded. The cinematography of the landscapes of the desert is spectacular but the film suffers from some serious weak points and undeveloped ideas. For example, in the scene where the couple’s car hits a deer (a scene seemingly based on David Lynch’s The Straight Story [1999]) and its sudden breakdown is contrived and implausible. Sometimes we see a truck loaded with soldiers passing on the road and apparently the only one who is able to see them is the photographer. Even though this might indicate a particular concept, it does not resonate well and seems to be an imposed idea.

Author of this review: Parviz Jahed