What was it like working with actress Mojdeh Daei and getting such a restrained and dramatic performance from her?
In academic directing, there’s a focus on the broader vision of the scene and the overall narrative, rather than micromanaging each actor’s performance. This method involves setting the stage for the actors to immerse themselves in their roles and discover their own interpretations of the characters. I might give specific instruction, but the emotional and psychological embodiment of the character is left largely to the actors’ own understanding and creativity.
This approach allows actors like Mojdeh to bring their unique perspectives to the character, fostering a more organic and authentic performance. It’s about creating a collaborative environment where actors feel free to explore and express, while I, as the director, provide guidance.
How was the experience of having children in the project with Aylar Abbasi having a prominent role. How was the selection casting?
I have always enjoyed working with children in my projects. The casting process, especially under the constraints of COVID-19, presented its own difficulties. Finding the right child actor who not only fits the role but also copes well with the demands of a film set is a significant task.
Aylar’s prior experience on TV projects and her mother’s commitment to her acting career, prepared her well for the role. Aylar’s ease on set, minimal need for direction, and the joy she brought to the production are testaments to her talent.
The sequence in which Mojdeh Daei tells her husband that she is pregnant is the first in which dialogue appears and produces a strong impression. How did you plan this sequence?
In the scene, the husband is engrossed in reading a book, symbolizing his detachment, when Mojdeh’s character emerges from the bathroom and sits on the bed to share the news of her pregnancy. This is their second child, and the husband’s reaction — saying it’s great and then turning off the light, followed by the sound of a kiss. This moment exemplifies the film’s thematic focus on the unspoken undercurrents within a seemingly ordinary domestic life.
In my directing style, influenced by minimalism, I emphasize the subtle nuance of performance and storytelling. I believe in the power of subtlety over grandeur and strive to ensure every frame in my film is meticulously composed, each telling its own story. I find great value in silence within a film, using it as a tool for reflection and deeper emotional connection. In my view, film serves as a window into the human soul, revealing truths that transcend the capabilities of words.
Hamed Mafakhery does a great and subtle job in the sound area. What guidelines did you give him?
Collaborating with Hamed was an effortless journey. Together, we delved into the emotional texture, played some tunes, and then let him take the lead. Our goal was to craft an atmosphere that resonates with emotion, employing unconventional sound techniques to elevate the narrative. We focused on utilizing sound not just as an auditory experience but as a tool to intensify tension and enrich the mood of the film.
The locations of the film are very well chosen, conveying the well-off homes of the characters. How was the filming of Aylar Abbasi’s sequence in the bathtub?
The bathroom, where we shot this sequence, was specially renovated and designed by me to evoke the bathroom of my grandmother’s house in Neyshabur. This was a conscious choice to pay homage to my childhood memories and to the nostalgic moments spent there. The bathtub itself has its own story – it’s a vintage piece originally from my grandmother’s collection.
Aylar was initially a bit shy about the bathtub scene, which is completely understandable. To ensure her comfort, we made the decision to have only Aylar and Mojdeh, the actress playing her mother, in the bathroom. The rest of us, including myself, monitored and directed from outside. This approach not only ensured Aylar’s comfort but also helped maintain the integrity of the scene as a private, mother-daughter moment.
The costumes are another protagonist of the film with an important use of color and relevance with Mojdeh Daei’s final dress. What was it like working with the wardrobe manager and with Rabee Mollahosseini in hair and makeup?
Working on the wardrobe for the film, especially for Mojdeh’s character, was a deeply involved and challenging process, largely due to the numerous short scenes that required wardrobe changes in line with the changing seasons and the progression of her pregnancy.
Working closely with Mojdeh on the wardrobe selections was essential, particularly as we did not have a dedicated costume person on set. This collaboration was made even more challenging due to the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic during the film’s production in Tehran. Interestingly, the wardrobe was a mixture of my own personal collection and Mojdeh, adding a unique and personal touch to the film.
The dress serves as a visual metaphor for her character’s state of mind, attending a wedding while enduring the pain of her baby’s death in her womb. This decision to participate in the wedding, despite her own suffering and impending medical procedure, adds a layer of complexity to her character and is powerfully conveyed through her attire. The final dress worn by Mojdeh’s character, along with the wedding dress featured in the film, were both pieces from my mother’s wardrobe.
In terms of makeup, working with Rabee Mollahosseini was integral to the film’s visual storytelling. The progression of her pregnancy and the subsequent illness were reflected in the makeup, which helped in portraying the physical and emotional transformation of her character. Rabee’s expertise as a professional makeup artist enhanced the realism of Mojdeh’s portrayal, contributing to the film’s overall aesthetic and narrative impact.
In the last sequence Mojdeh Daei looks at the camera, how did you and cinematographer Koohyar Kalari plan this sequence?
Earlier, Mojdeh’s character discovers that her unborn child has died. This news comes hours before a wedding celebration. She bears this tragedy in silence, choosing not to overshadow the happiness of the occasion with her own sorrow.
This scene was planned to ensure that the lighting, framing, and timing of Mojdeh’s gaze would effectively convey this moment. The intention was to leave the audience with a lasting impression of the character’s strength and the unspoken bond she shared with them.
What is it like to be a producer, film director and film screenwriter in Iran?
Being a producer, director, and scriptwriter in Iran is an experience filled with both immense challenges and gratifying triumphs. As someone who deeply values creative control in bringing a vision to life, these roles offer a significant sense of autonomy and freedom. This control is particularly vital in a landscape where artistic expression can be subject to various restrictions.
Making films is an ongoing process of honing my skills and staying engaged with every aspect of film. Each project is an opportunity to explore new ideas and push creative boundaries. My commitment is not just to the craft of filmmaking but to maintaining the integrity and truth of the stories I choose to tell.
What film projects do you have planned for the future?
For my future projects, I have several feature-length scripts in development. My priority is to make films that are honest and reflective of reality, without succumbing to external pressures to censor or alter the narrative to portray a misleading image.