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aka - Shabhaye Roshan
Iran 2003
Directed by
Farzad Motamen
105 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

White Nights (2003)

Farzad Motamen’s second film is a skilful adaptation of the Dostoevsky novella of the same name. The central character is now a lugubrious university lecturer who teaches Persian literature, knows hundreds of love poems but not love itself. He meets a young woman who is waiting at an agreed place for a man she loves but has not seen for a year. He keeps her company and together they explore the philosophy of love and in so doing he discovers the real thing.

Motamen keeps close to the letter of Dostoevsky’s story but impressively recontextualizes it, managing to broaden the original text particularly by including references to love poems by classic Persian poets. The director explicitly acknowledges the 1957 Visconti interpretation of the same story, Le Notti Bianchi by the film poster that is in the teacher’s apartment. Whilst this makes for an interesting “post-modern” twist it is a somewhat puzzling touch given the otherwise naturalistic tenor of the film since surely if our man was such a fan of the film then would he not be a little surprised to find that he was living out the story word for word? However one takes this, overall the film is much more successful than the rather awkward Visconti effort, or indeed, the 1971 Bresson version, filmed as Four Nights Of A Dreamer, the Platonic, questing nature of the relationship between the two protagonists finding a much more satisfactory form of realization here than in the rather more hysterical and cloying Italian interpretation or the elliptical, intertextual French version.




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