By Guest Contributor Azra, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch
Women Without Men, directed by Shirin Neshat, looks at the visually evocative and at times interspersing lives of four women in Iran in the early 1950s. It is a time of political unrest, as Prime Minister Mossadegh faced increasing opposition from US and British-backed movements. The film explores the women’s relationships with men and their understanding of sexuality, friendship, faith, and political involvement. It is based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran, first published in 1989.
The film is beautifully shot. Neshat’s background in photography is clearly apparent, as each scene could easily exist as a series of photographs. The colors of the film are rich. At times I was reminded of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, not only for the beautiful cinematography, but also for its similar (albeit far more understated) use of magical realism during a time of stark political change. I found myself wondering about how both films use female protagonists and the setting of a natural space to drive their narrative, leaving male characters in the background of their experience.