Crimson Gold

Director: Jafar Panahi

Iran| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 95 mins.

Written by Abbas Kiarostami and directed by his former assistant Jafar Panahi (The Cycle), Crimson Gold was inspired by newspaper accounts of a thief who, after being trapped by a security system during a jewellery robbery, killed the shop’s manager and himself. Opening with these acts of murder and suicide, the main body of the film goes on to show what pushes a man to such extremes. The central protagonist, Hussein (Hossein Emadeddin), is a taciturn loner, a war veteran who was once lauded but is now working as an ageing pizza delivery man and part-time thief. Increasingly disturbed by the gulf between his humble world and the rich people who order his services, Hussein begins to lust for the easy life and goes over the edge following a surreal encounter with a wealthy man (Pourang Nakhaei) who invites him into his palatial home.
Kiarostami’s script provides a stunningly eloquent and moving account of an Iranian society split between privilege and desperation. As Panahi has noted, ‘behind all this tragedy lies a cycle of humiliation and privation that reveals the abyss left between the rich and the poor with the disappearance of the middle class.’ The Cycle was a scathing attack on the lowly position accorded women in present-day Iranian society. Crimson Gold is no less revealing of how petty injustices and pent-up feelings of alienation can lead to acts of senseless violence that aren’t always as senseless as they may appear from newspaper headlines. This is an insightful and powerful film whose moments of offbeat humour render its social message all the more convincing.

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