As Simple as That

English Title: As Simple as That

Original Title: Be Hamin Sadegi

Country of Origin: Iran

Studio: Sooreh Cinema Development Organization

Director: Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi

Producer(s): Mohammadjavad Noroozbeigi

Screenplay: Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi, Shadmehr Rastin

Cinematographer: Mohammad Aladpoush

Editor: Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi

Runtime: 97 minutes

Genre: Melodrama

Starring/Cast: Nayyereh Farahani, Hengameh Ghaziani, Nastaran Ali Hamdam, Haleh Homapur, Mehran Kashani

Year: 2005

Volume: Iranian

Tahereh, a traditional middle-aged woman lives with her husband Amir and their two children in Tehran. She is a housewife who devotes her life to looking after her family but instead she gets little attention from her workaholic husband and her demanding children. Amir is getting prepared for an International Architectural competition, which encounters great sensitivity, because he is competing with foreign participants. Tahereh tries to make a peaceful atmosphere for him at home, while their daughter's trip on one hand, and their neighbour’s wedding ceremony on the other, causes some difficulties for them. Tahereh has almost no time for herself, and the stress of her life has been taking a heavy toll on her. She has welfare, but she has little to comfort her mind and spirit. As a result she starts to think about leaving her family but she does not have the time to run away, and begins slipping closer to the point of emotional collapse.

As Simple as That, is a simple, attractive, and brave piece of Iranian cinema with a narrative that is predominantly based on a female character. Tahereh (Hengameh Ghaziani) is a traditional housewife who seems to have a good and comfortable life, but she is suffering from an affliction unknown to us. She appears very calm and collected but she fell into depression. A perfect housewife, a kind and lovely mother and a sympathetic neighbour, her dignified behaviour and nature and her sad equanimity resemble aspects of Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s characters. It is a stylistically poetic study of boredom, loneliness, and the alienation of traditional Iranian women in modern Tehran. Tahereh is desperate for a change and has a plan to retrieve her life. So writing poetry is a way for her to get some kind of tranquillity in her boring life. There are a number of indications that this film is influenced by the work of Daruish Mehrjoui, particularly Leila and Sara, for example, its depiction of the many insipid and routine chores of a traditional woman in a modern society.
The narrative structure of the film is very simple and linear without any complexity. Time and place continuity has been kept and just like classic plays its story happens in one day. It is a simple story that contains no ups and downs. No external conflict exists as the main struggle occurs inside Tahereh. Tahereh is in a dilemma of whether to leave her house and husband or just carry on the life she has. Although cinema offers many ways to show a character's interior crisis, Mir-Karimi, has not applied them. One poem notebook and a few poems told by her are not enough to show her intimate feelings. It is also unbelievable that a housewife who has just started attending poetry class is able to recite Haiku like in a film by Kiarostami. Although the scene where Tahereh is waiting on the roof between the white sheets while it is snowing is similar to one of her poems, it does not make us feel that the snow exists inside of her. We do not really know what is going on inside this depressed and bored married woman and what causes her anxiety. Her afflicted face and sudden cries, all indicate her secret pain and grief yet we do not know what causes this depression. Apparently stomach ache, poverty, and unemployment is not her pain.
Tahereh’s intellectualism is not the same as Antonioni’s or Bergman’s intellectual characters who are suffering from identity crisis and self-estrangement. She is a typical housewife allocating all her time to cooking and looking after her children and husband. Rarely does it happen that she gets a chance to think of herself. Watching TV and listening to radio programmes are her only hobbies while she is involved with household chores and cooking during the day. Maybe the simplest way to show her inner feelings could have been the use of a voice over technique so we could hear the train of Tahereh's thoughts over the pictures, but perhaps Mir-Karimi believed this to be inadvisable for a traditional woman such as Tahereh.
In the first part of this film we see Tahereh alone at home, and in the absence of her husband and children she has taken enough time to focus on the details of her life and to introduce her character. But on the arrival of her children and at the end of the film when her husband enters the story, Tahereh's close connection with the audience is ruptured. The director’s overemphasis on the couple's local dialects has caused a great damage to the film, because it is not relevant to the cold and grieving atmosphere and injects comic affection into the film's atmosphere. The idea of using a handheld camera was very brave and not only has it facilitated working in the narrow space of the flat but also has skilfully managed to inspire the sham sense of weariness in daily life. Hengameh Ghaziani (a newcomer actress) in the main role is outstanding and her performance is one the best performances ever seen in Iranian cinema after the Revolution (she won the award for Best Actress at the ‘Fajr International Film Festival’).

Author of this review: Parviz Jahed